Tuesday, June 14, 2011

june 4 2011: generosity

Saturday, June 4, started hot and bright, and got hotter and brighter. As I biked to the garden along the lakeshore bike path, I sensed the gathering storm of aggressive and irritable hedonism that characterizes Chicago summers: the tramp stamp-flashing, backward baseball cap-wearing, street-meat-eating, sweaty and verdant fecundity of it all.

tending the potato row
In the garden, volunteers, including many from Chicago Cares, were already on the verge of swooning in the heat when I arrived. We kept a minor bucket brigade going, repeatedly filling our small filtering pitcher from the garden hose so that people could stay hydrated.

We found mysterious gifts in the shade of the plum trees. In addition to flats of pepper and basil starts whose orange “Ginko OG” labels revealed their origin in the seedlings that we started at the Kilbourn Organic Greenhouse, there was a flat filled with sturdy starts of varieties of tomatoes that were new to us. We later learned that these seedlings, almost all of heirloom varieties, were donations from Slow Food Chicago. Thanks in advance to Slow Food Chicago for the purple, blond, and peach tomatoes that we should start harvesting in a couple of months.

We busied ourselves with planting. We planted basil seedlings and sowed marigold and sunflower seeds between our new tomato starts. We also filled a bed with rows of beet seeds that had been soaked in water the night before.

The weather has been unsuitable for spinach: unseasonably cold, then brutally hot. Our bed of spinach was almost empty, with only a few spiky and bitter growths that I thought were spinach plants that had bolted really hard. I learned later that these plants were, in fact, dandelions. Spinach will have to wait until late summer.

We cut our day short because of the heat. A group of us then traveled to the Back of the Yards neighborhood to visit The Plant—an aquaponic/vertical garden/industrial repurposing/green incubator/wicked cool idea of tremendous scale. The Plant’s Director, John Edel, gave us a special tour, walking us around the property and conjuring visions of offices, kitchens, breweries, fisheries, and gardens from the piles of twisted industrial rubble and asphalted parking lots that currently exist at the former Peer Foods Building.

pepper seedlings