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From our Homepage: Assumptions Ground Up

From our Homepage: Assumptions Ground Up
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  • From our Homepage: Assumptions Ground Up

    Post #1 - May 2nd, 2015, 4:00 pm
    Post #1 - May 2nd, 2015, 4:00 pm Post #1 - May 2nd, 2015, 4:00 pm
    This is an excerpt from an article on our homepage. Click here to read the full article.

    Image
    Jeanne Nolan, The Organic Gardener (photo courtesy of Jill Paider)

    Assumptions Ground Up by Katje Sabin (aka mamagotcha)

    I know this doesn't reflect well on me, but . . . I did not want to like Jeanne Nolan.

    Hmm, let me back up a little bit. . . .

    About six months ago, I moved from my house with a yard to an apartment on the north side of Chicago. I was fortunate enough to land two blocks away from an organic community garden that had an open plot. It was mid-June, a little late to start a garden in the Midwest, but I managed to eke out some kale, a couple of jalapenos, and a few cherry tomatoes before Halloween arrived to close us down with the first sleet of the season.

    Our 46-plot garden was undergoing some serious organizational upheaval among its members (a few of whom had been with the garden continuously since it opened in 1982). Through a flurry of emails, meetings, and phone calls, I accidentally found myself installed as the new garden coordinator, and was unceremoniously thrust into the bustling and burgeoning world of Chicago's urban community gardening movement.

    Click here to read the full article.
    “Assuredly it is a great accomplishment to be a novelist, but it is no mediocre glory to be a cook.” -- Alexandre Dumas

    "I give you Chicago. It is no London and Harvard. It is not Paris and buttermilk. It is American in every chitling and sparerib. It is alive from tail to snout." -- H.L. Mencken
  • Post #2 - May 8th, 2015, 1:43 pm
    Post #2 - May 8th, 2015, 1:43 pm Post #2 - May 8th, 2015, 1:43 pm
    Katje,
    I love reading about people who are passionate about their work. Thanks for sharing Jeanne Nolan's story. I enjoyed every word.
  • Post #3 - May 8th, 2015, 3:18 pm
    Post #3 - May 8th, 2015, 3:18 pm Post #3 - May 8th, 2015, 3:18 pm
    Thank you, janeyb!
    “Assuredly it is a great accomplishment to be a novelist, but it is no mediocre glory to be a cook.” -- Alexandre Dumas

    "I give you Chicago. It is no London and Harvard. It is not Paris and buttermilk. It is American in every chitling and sparerib. It is alive from tail to snout." -- H.L. Mencken
  • Post #4 - May 10th, 2015, 5:25 pm
    Post #4 - May 10th, 2015, 5:25 pm Post #4 - May 10th, 2015, 5:25 pm
    Hi- I have a garden in the Evanston Community gardens. We pay $45 for a half plot, or $90 for a whole one when they are available. When I first joined them, all the plots were full 20'x20' plots, but then we had way more people that wanted to garden than we had spots available, and all the new gardeners are only allowed to garden a half plot, and a lot of the gardeners that had a whole plot were downsized to a half plot. This year we have been warned that the waiting list is a mile long, and if you don't get your act together, your garden will be reassigned. Our gardening coordinator is paid by the city of Evanston, and they also supply us with water and wood chips, and that is why we have to charge so much money. Our gardening coordinator only contacts people through email. mamagotcha do you get paid anything for being the garden coordinator? If all you have is 48 plots and each person pays $10 a year, there is no way they could afford to pay you. It must be a challenging job. Personally I don't think the gardening coordinator for the city of Evanston gets paid enough money. You can only contact her through email, or you can leave a message at the ecology center in Evanston. When one of the former gardening coordinators gave everybody her home phone number, people were calling her up all the time.
  • Post #5 - May 10th, 2015, 9:12 pm
    Post #5 - May 10th, 2015, 9:12 pm Post #5 - May 10th, 2015, 9:12 pm
    I'm glad to hear you're a fellow community gardener, Nancy!

    This job is definitely a labor of love. It's been in chaos since the founder left a few years ago, and it's been very satisfying to see the gardeners coming together with a little encouragement and organization. We do have a few members who are better off and can pitch in more, but a large number of our gardeners struggle to pay the $15 annual fee (nobody is kicked out for lack of ability to pay, though). NeighborSpace (the nonprofit land trust that owns our property) has worked out some kind of deal with the city for water (we are only allowed a hydrant between mid-May and mid-October, and we have to be careful not to abuse its use). We get free wood chips from the city and Bartlett Tree Experts. We were given a gift card to Gethsemane, which is how I got my hands on 20 bags of compost to enrich our soil, but I'm still trying to figure out a free or super-cheap source of good organic compost.

    We did have a pretty big waiting list, but I've managed to weed out the no-shows and get all our new gardeners placed in time for this year's planting season. It's very challenging, though... a lot of my gardeners do not have email, some don't have a phone, and a few don't have a stable mailing address, so it can be difficult to find them.

    I WISH it was a paid position! Holy cow, it's turned into somewhat of a monster, especially since we've launched a new parkway "food forest" project that will offer 7 8'x4' boxes filled with herbs, flowers, and vegetables for our neighboring community to enjoy. But I just had an interview today for a potential grant for compost and plants to fill them (fingers crossed!), and we have several volunteers working on signage and weeding and such. It's been a lot of fun, even amid the squabbles and miscommunications and rained-out events. I am so proud of my gardeners... they are so willing to learn and improve the garden. Poor people in our culture have a reputation for laziness, but the poor people in my garden are among the hardest-working folks I've ever met in my life.

    The Hello Howard garden, a few short blocks from us, charges $75 for a 4'x4' raised bed. They are very good at what they do, and they have done some amazing things with their resources. But their classes and plots are so far out of reach for people like me and my gardeners. It's really important to me to make sure this opportunity to grow things doesn't become some kind of special luxury activity, and to keep the plots in my garden available to whoever needs them the most.

    It's a little dream of mine, to find some kind of sponsor who will help me find a way to make this a paid position. I'm fortunate in that I'm an at-home, homeschooling mom who has the time and experience to devote to our garden, but I'm trying to pace myself, delegate jobs, and make sure I don't get burned out too fast (a common problem in volunteer and nonprofit groups). And while a few of the gardeners have my cell number, I set up a Google phone account to take messages for general calls.

    By the way... if anyone has a small used plastic storage shed, seeds/seedlings, or garden tools they don't need anymore and would consider donating, please let me know! We do have a nonprofit EIN, so you can write it off on your taxes if you'd like, and I promise your donation will be deeply appreciated.

    And thank you reading my article!
    “Assuredly it is a great accomplishment to be a novelist, but it is no mediocre glory to be a cook.” -- Alexandre Dumas

    "I give you Chicago. It is no London and Harvard. It is not Paris and buttermilk. It is American in every chitling and sparerib. It is alive from tail to snout." -- H.L. Mencken
  • Post #6 - May 10th, 2015, 11:38 pm
    Post #6 - May 10th, 2015, 11:38 pm Post #6 - May 10th, 2015, 11:38 pm
    Hi- There is going to be a garden swap at the Unitarian Church in Evanston at Ridge and Greenwood on May 22 from 4:00pm-7:00pm. One person in particular brings tons of mostly tomato plants but some pepper plants every year. She is one of the organizers for it. It is held in the church parking lot. You can bring anything garden related, including books and magazines. On one of the gardening boards, there is a thread going for people that are looking for particular plants or cuttings, or have plants to trade. Here is the link to the thread.
    http://allthingsplants.com/thread/view/ ... swap-2015/
    This is a gardening board that I was not familiar with. I think a lot of the people that used to post on gardenweb, which has gone way downhill since they were taken over by a commercial company, are now posting on allthingsplants.com.

    The city of Evanston used to provide us with free leaf mulch, but they got complaints about the smell of the leaves as they were decomposing from people that lived in the neighborhood, and so they do not compost their own leaves anymore. I really miss the free leaf mulch. Last July the Jewel on Chicago Avenue in Evanston had all their bags of mushroom compost and manure marked down to $1 a bag. They had a huge pile of it for about a month, before they finally sold it all. I think I bought 8 bags of mushroom compost myself. You can also get free horse manure at the horse stables on Golf Road in Skokie, if you don't mind hauling manure that is still cooking in your car. I don't know of any place where you can get free compost. Hope this helps, Nancy
  • Post #7 - May 14th, 2015, 3:12 pm
    Post #7 - May 14th, 2015, 3:12 pm Post #7 - May 14th, 2015, 3:12 pm
    Free wood chips:
    http://www.townplanner.com/60565/il/eve ... 516/121259

    Not sure if anyone could use, but thought of this post when I saw the offer...

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