Garden Gathering

I grew up in a greenhouse. As a child I dirtied my hands in the big bin of potting soil, started cuttings, learned which plants liked a lot of water, which plants just liked a sip, made bonsais, propagated, and learned to airfoil among many other things. The big greenhouse, its slightly cracked door always beckoning, would welcome you with dense warmth, and a wondrous smell of humus, and the gentle roar of the big fans upon the threshold. I would play between the rows of orchids, succulents and bromeliads till the sweat poured, then cool off in front of one of the huge fans.

My father and grandfather owned and operated a nursery for more than 50 years. Plants were always around. A particularly pretty flower in the window sill, a good climbing tree in the back yard, a stunning variegated green friend just outside the window, vines twisted into hedges, naval oranges picked from the backyard, a child-sized vegetable patch – I didn’t know it had permeated so thoroughly until long after I had moved from home, Simon’s Nursery had closed its doors, and I had a house and yard of my own.

After my first few walks, down the roads, sidewalks and in the quiet back alleys three years ago, I realized I had definitely moved to the greener part of Huntsville. And that made me absolutely thrilled! I was exactly where i wanted to be. So many beautiful yards and so many back yard, and even front yard gardens – shrubs, flowers, hanging baskets, vines, fruit trees, vegetables. Sure – I had kept a modest box garden on the south end of town for 8 years – but I was one of two houses on the whole street that had a garden. It seemed, finally, when Spring started knocking I’d be able to meet others who were just as excited about gardening as I was – and well… actually neighborly.

I borrowed a small tractor from a good friend, plowed up an 8’x30’ section of my backyard and got to work on my garden space. My Dad drew up a landscape plan for the house, which we dug and planted. Along and along, as I unpacked, and worked on my green space – I met my neighbors up and down my block, and then others from blocks over. I always made it a point to say hello to folks if they were outside, or if they were walking by, because well, thats the type of neighborhood Five Points is, and its part of why I love living there.

The second year of my garden, my folks came up for a visit in the middle of summer. At sunset I grabbed three baskets and harvested eggplants, onions, leeks, tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers with my Mom’s help and handed them all to my Dad on the patio. He looked back at the garden, the veggies in his hands and then up at me and said “Nano (ie. his father) would be so proud of you. Of all the things grown, he was most impressed by growing food. He would love your garden.”  I never knew that; and as i fell into the sheer depth of those kind words, it all just made me want to grow more and share more. So I shared my harvest with friends, with coworkers, with my neighbors, with family. I cooked, baked, froze, canned and pickled it all! By the time the summer was over, my friends and neighbors were running the opposite direction of me because I was always coming at them with baskets of fresh veggies.

An idea popped into my head then and there. What if I could organize some sort of local veggie swap in the middle of the summer? Or wait, better yet… What if I could organize a swap at the beginning of Spring for folks to plant gardens, or for people who never have but want to, or just for plants, or ideas, maybe just seeds, or herb gardens, or container gardens. There were so many directions it could go. And more questions to be asked. I nested on the idea for a year, grew an even larger garden, chased my friends with baskets of vegetables, and finally posted a give away for my bumper crop of eggplants on NextDoor.com. They were all gone within four hours.  So obviously some people liked fresh veggies just as much as I did. With that courage, I proposed a Five Points Garden Exchange last fall. From the handful of folks that appeared and the couple meetings we had – I gained some ideas (like historic plant swapping) and some more green friends. I decided to join the Northeast Huntsville Civic Association as their Membership chair and they added more ideas and encouragement to the original idea. It was finally go time.

Or should I say green time? The Garden Gathering is for anyone who loves things green and leafy, for anyone who grows a vegetable garden, for anyone who likes flowers, has a plant with a story, prunes shrubbery. The morning of April 8th is for kids who want to grow a pizza garden, for folks who like to cook with fresh herbs, for container gardeners, for people with fruit trees, for neighbors with more green space than house, for anyone even remotely curious about plants. From Nine to Noon at the Optimist Park Pavilion anyone can trade and swap and exchange seeds, plants, flowers, bulbs, herbs, seedlings, knowledge and ideas, and very basically, be neighborly. After all, we call Huntsville, Alabama home. At the very heart of it – The Garden Gathering is for everyone – people who grew up in a greenhouse, and for those who have never even gotten their hands dirty, but wish to.

Garden Gathering Poster

 

McLeod Masters Trail Crew Report for Jan. 28, 2017

The new Dallas Branch trail on the Monte Sano Mountain Preserve of the Land Trust of North Alabama is now open! 

Please get out and enjoy this new trail which runs beside the Dallas Branch creek. Here is the general location, easily found by hikers starting at the Oak Park baseball fields and following the Oak Park Trail toward the Buzzard’s Roost overlook. 

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Our work day started as all others: cleaning and sharpening our tools ahead of time.  It’s a lot easier and safer to work with sharp tools.

We left the parking lot at 9 a.m. with 8 people who were itching to get out of the wind, get moving and get to work. It was a lot warmer than our last work day.  20170128-jan-trail-report1We hiked in, began clearing the leaves on the last section and grubbing a couple of trees.  Layers of clothes started coming off quickly.

We made our way down the trail filling holes and clearing out any debris that was blocking water flow.

We reached the point where the new Dallas Branch trail crosses the old Flat Rock trail.  There is a big muddy swale there that we couldn’t fix, so we brought in a number of flat rocks for hikers to step on (hence the name, Flat Rock Trail).

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The great part of working in a group is sharing other interests as we go. Richard and Aaron began talking about fossils, so we took a short side trip just to find a few fossils. It’s cool to think about the entire area underwater so many years ago.

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We also learn about each other’s history: Alexis and Bill G. shared memories of serving our country as paratroopers.   John collects sweatshirts from colleges that he never attended but they make great conversation starters.  Robert was a calm, steady presence and asked good questions. 

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First official user of the trail.

Just as we finished, we greeted our first official user, a mountain biker who came down the trail with a big smile on his face!  He was a little surprised to learn we weren’t also mountain bikers.  We design the pathways to share the trails.

After our short trail opening ceremony, we hiked out and noticed we were missing a cohort.  No man is left behind!  Aaron went back to look for Bill. He came back alone, and just as we were all going back in to look for our lost cohort, Bill G. arrived, still smiling, announcing that he found the Appalachian Trail! Totally a light hearted joke.

Every trail needs tweaking and improving.  If you can do yard work, you can help.  To join us, just send a text message to 84483 with the word trail and you’ll receive notifications. McLeod Masters specialize in the trails of Land Trust property in Northeast Huntsville.

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Enjoying pizza provided by the NE Hsv Civic Association.

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Bill is happy he found his way back.

 

Ain’t nuthin but a thang…

How is it that a little thing started by just one person can mean so much for others’ quality of life?

The story of ridding O’Shaughnessy Avenue of industrial blight began with one resident who was flummoxed by a situation and contacted us.

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I’m proud to relay another story of another one resident’s initiative and great customer service from our partners at “city hall”.  It’s not about politics, it’s about the business of building a quality of life that we want in our community.

The long, deep parking lot at the Oak Park baseball fields is an invitation for all sorts of hanky-panky, switch-a-rooing and fence-vaulting into the adjacent back yards.  Evan Smith was diligent about calling 256-722-7100 to ask the HPD to shoo the cars out of the park after dark and investigate unusual behavior during the day.  After a month of surveillance, Evan felt alone in the endeavor and was tired of the pattern.

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Smart man that he is, Evan asked for help, because at least two heads are, actually, better than one.  We contacted James Gossett of Parks and Rec and Captain DeWayne MacCarver, south precinct HPD, and described the predicament.  They looked at the records of calls for HPD service and agreed that it was time to put up a barrier at this site.  We dreamed of an iron arm controlled by a timer and realized that a chain and lock would suffice for now.  And who would put it up and take it down?  Evan agreed to invest more of his time and manage a team of gate-keepers, the neighbors from the adjacent homes.  Parks and Rec made the next call and in just a few days, BAM!, General Services put up a sturdy barrier to make it very inconvenient for vehicles to enter after dark.  We were pleased. The galvanized chain was like Bruno, a burly bouncer at a bar, thick arms crossed and silent.  “Thou shalt NOT enter” Bruno announced.

After just few nights of dragging Bruno across the parking lot and trying to stretch the 80 pound mass, we realized that we needed to tweet the thang, i.e. find a sustainable solution.  Evan was willing to put money toward new materials, but this time we contacted General Services ourselves, described the situation, and “in no time atall”, Bruno was replaced with a  lighter, strong twisted cable.  The barrier is now like a lean, wise woman who spots a mischievous child reaching for an off-limits vase, her eyes inferring “don’t .even. think. about it”.  Just enough warning to still be effective.

We are happy to see neighbors taking action to create the quality of life they want on their street and calling us when they want help.  In this micro-project, residents are investing time and labor, the city invested time, labor, and materials.  Some day, for other improvements, residents may have to also invest money for materials.

What needs attention on your street? What ideas to you have for a public-private partnership?  If you don’t have an idea but you want to be counted among others who have confidence in our community, please JOIN your Association!