Thursday, October 22, 2009

Encounters in an urban garden

urban garden
This past August the Earl Boyles Community Garden in Portland was completely trashed by vandals. It was heartbreaking. It hit a nerve with many gardeners: all of that hard work stomped on (literally).

And urban gardeners are probably a little more familiar with this particular nerve. Gardening in close quarters, and often in front and beyond the security of fences, our gardens are out there for all to enjoy.

I’ve written plenty about how our garden has connected us to many people and wonderful things: this post is not about that. This is about the encounters that aren’t so wonderful.

  • The stray 40 ouncers are one thing, but I always wonder why people think they can just throw their cans in our clematis.

  • After a long day of gardening I left a bag of potting soil at the gate entrance. Next day it was gone. I still wonder about that. Did someone just throw it over their shoulder as they were walking and walk off down the road with my Whitney Farms Weed Whompin’ Mulch? Yes, it was a bag of the good stuff, dangit!

  • One spring morning found me gazing out at the former patch of red tulips, shorn clean overnight destined to be in vases in someone else’s house other than my own. I scoffed, because it can be hard enough for me to pick from my own garden but not so hard for someone else. Speaking of picking…

  • Our neighbor once discovered a stranger deep in our garden picking flowers, with buckets and clippers in hand. He confronted her and she argued that he had a right to be there (she did not). A week later, AdRi came upon her doing the same thing. Indignant about being asked what exactly she was doing, AdRi chased her off but not without seeing the buckets of flowers from other gardens piled up in her van.

  • I don’t know if finding a dead cat under an overgrown lavender counts, but it still didn’t smell good.

  • This week I confronted boys who were carrying a fight off of the street and into the garden, grabbing handfuls of gravel for weapons to throw. I love when the garden attracts kids, but not in this situation. Let’s just say the young man had a foul mouth and a mighty big temper for a 12-year old, and I hope he doesn’t plan any retaliation. It’s this kind of stuff, as an urban gardener, that bums me out.

  • And then there’s the scary. Early one dark morning I came face-to-face with another human being on the other side of our kitchen window. A woman was trying to explain to me she was just passing through, but from where she was, deep in the garden, I knew that wasn’t the case and the voice that came out of me, one of fear yet determination, told her to leave and to leave now. I came to find she was sleeping in our garden, and as the police officer noted upon visiting as a follow-up to the situation, noted our garden is truly perfect for a peaceful, reclusive nap. Especially for the homeless.

  • I can’t begin to list all of the hysterical things I’ve been witness to while in the garden, but one of the best is the man jogging down the street, in a full running ensemble, while smoking a cigarette.
I know that the many wonderful experiences outweigh any traumas, and I thought exactly that when I first read about the Earl Boyles garden vandalism. Work parties and donations soon followed, and neighbors, gardeners, and community members rallied together to help restore and replace what was lost in that fine community garden.

But then this week I read this, and the amazing donation of 1,515 pounds of produce from an inmates garden was turned over to these gardeners to help replace their bounty. And my hope was restored and I was reminded that I was right: garden folk are a good people, and gardens, no matter where you may grow, bring us together more than they tear us apart.


Best Wishes, Marie said...

i love all the entries. i traveled yesterday and am just clearing and catching up and i went "yew hoo!" when i saw you had a new post.

Best Wishes, Marie said...

there is a certain mentality (i have seen it with renters. usually those with some ... drug use that does not allow them to function) who have an idea that people who have things are "lucky." we have two small "garden level" apartments. (half basement). once girl painted and hung batik fabrics. the other girl ate fried food and watched tv all dayn(and could not even bother to put the wrappers in the garbage.

the scuzzy tenant said "her apt is nice" to me as a landlord, when she had a chance to visit inside. implying that i as a landlord might paint, etc... or should i say repaint with colors.

and i said "she made it nice." "what?" "she made it nice." i repeated. the concept that the individual made it nice. and not "she got this" was a new concept to her.

once i paid her to do some clean up. just sweeping, etc.... and she complained the whole time about how much work it was and how difficult that i ALMOST started to feel guilty. FOR PAYING HER TO WORK.

the idea that "i have a right to take from you" simply because .... can get old.

they are above working for an hourly wage.

A Lewis said...

All of THIS? In a garden? Wow. I need to have one, I think.

Stephanie said...

wow...great entry. I read the linked article about the inmates garden, it brought a tear to my eye. That's amazing.

Magpie Ima said...

What a lot in your garden! I understand about people helping themselves to my flowers but, in all fairness, I've had plenty of folks ring my doorbell and ask for permission to cut flowers and collect seeds.

I've also had to deal with someone sleeping in my yard. Completely freaked us out when we discovered him. I think my startled screams must have scared him off for good. Here's wishing you only happy garden stories from here on out.

Rozanne said...

Great post.
Someone sleeping in your garden? Scary and yet heart-wrenching, too.

Did they ever catch who trashed the Earl Boyles garden? I remember being so angry when I read about that. The anger was somewhat countered, though, by the way people rallied around to restore the garden, although I wonder what message that sent to the vandals.

P.S. There is a neighborhood cat taking a dump in my garden as I type this.

vickie said...

Hopefully, overall the urban garden will promote more harmony than not, Good articles.

Wacky Mommy said...

A couple of girls walked through my mom's garden gate and clipped all of her lovely, lush hydrangea blossoms. The noive. Did NOT have permission.

One time my little doggie, dear Wacky Dog, was growling at someone through the front gate. "Yes?" i yelled. "It's okay ma'am, I'm just urinating." "And I'm just calling the cops."

"Should I stay here til they get here?"

Then there's Machete Man, who walks right into our back yard unannounced, furious that we won't hire him to work on our yard.



Best Wishes, Marie said...

hi lelo -- thanks for the note. i keep hearing the john lennon tune to "prozac is not the answer." and i went yesterday and got the gardening magazine with you in it !!

Mark H said...

I am shocked that the person is cutting out of private gardens while screaming she has a right to. What an eye-opening post! THANK you for saying what SHOULD be said. I guess our "deer fenced" garden may be protecting more than I think, eh?

Unknown said...

The story about the prisoners donating their garden vegetables is all the more moving because of the terrible quality of the food that they offer in correctional facilities. That was really a gift from the heart, and a sacrifice.