Sunday, July 14, 2013
Mesa Harmony Garden
We are harvesting nectarines and plums at Mesa Harmony Garden. The Mesa neighborhood gets the cool ocean breeze and the morning fog. Not the best place for growing tomatoes because of the cool breeze, but it’s awfully nice for garden volunteers working among the fruit trees.
That's what we planted on this one-acre plot -- about 100 fruit trees -- plums, peaches, nectarines, apples, and pears mainly, plus a small banana plantation. What people are realizing is that you can grow bananas in Santa Barbara -- this one variety that tolerates our warm and dry but not tropical climate. It will grow little bananas with orange-flavored sweetness, really excellent and toothsome, and banana trees are no trouble -- except they need water and plenty of room.
At Mesa Harmony Garden, we say that "Labor is Free, but Water is Expensive." It's all volunteer work and nobody gets paid, but the water bill comes every month and we are determined to get that monkey off our backs. We spread large quantities of leaf mulch under the trees to delay evaporation and save water. The city gives this leaf mulch away -- the end-product from the green waste containers. You can pick it up free at several locations. Mesa Harmony Garden, because we are a non-profit, can ask for a truckload -- 10 to 15 yards of mulch, and we can use it all.
Also, the mulch smothers weeds, then breaks down and becomes an organic soil amendment. Good gardeners love mulch.
The other thing we do for water conservation is collect water off the parking lot and the roof of the Parish Hall. I need to backtrack and explain "Parish Hall." The garden occupies a one-acre fenced lot, property of the Holy Cross Catholic Church, but the Mesa Harmony Garden is a separate organization, a formally organized non-profit corporation with a 15-year lease on the premises, which gives us the freedom and time necessary for planting an orchard.
The parking lot, almost as big as the garden itself, is slightly uphill from the garden, so we capture all the runoff at the lower end and channel the water into a biological swale that will clean it up a bit before it flows onto the fruit trees.
Rain falls on the gutters of the Parish Hall and then flows into an above ground tank and that water gets piped downhill to the garden. Rain water is free and why waste it.
We do not rent plots to individuals as many community gardens do. The prime directive for this orchard is growing fresh fruit for the Santa Barbara Food Bank. We planted the orchard three years ago and this is the first season we are getting a decent harvest. Last week we picked 50 pounds of white-fleshed nectarines and plums. Next week we can begin harvesting peaches.
The trees are young and the fruit is small, but by next year we might be harvesting quite a volume of produce.
And we have gophers -- it's a constant battle. You know what the trick is for dealing with gophers? There is no trick. The only thing I can say is Never Give Up. This is nature in the raw, an endless struggle.
But I always want to believe what I hear about gophers, like someone said they never bother with the pepper plants, so when someone donated some habanero pepper bushes we planted them without gopher cages, and so far the gophers haven't touched them. That makes sense -- would you munch on habanero roots?
Mesa Harmony Garden has volunteer days twice a month. Go to the website and find out how you can help.
Too Much Empathy
What I have noticed about the Middle East is that they are in a time and place of complete empathy. Everything hurts. It is a culture that is all poetry and utterly lacking in science, industry and technology. It's totally out of balance. No wonder we say it's our oil underneath their sand. They didn't even know the oil was there, and when it was discovered they did not know what to do with it.
Now they are using imported smart phones to foment a revolution. But I would say, instead of waving the bloody flag, they might put up posters of the medieval Arabic scholars who had a balanced stance of poetry and reason and who guided our European ancestors toward this balanced vision.
I continue to study Arabic and find it very revealing. Here is my practice sheet for today. It says "the beautiful city" and I mean that to refer to Cairo -- may the beautiful side of this great city come to flourish. This is a two-word poem, and it is an act of empathy, but I would wish for those young fellow fighting in the street that they would go home or to the cafe and study chemistry and physics and mathematics, and devise state-of-the-art solar energy projects and construct highly efficient desalinization plants.Inline image 1
This practice sheet has not been corrected by my tutor and may contain mistakes.
If I were a Rich Man. I have no desk, no place to work. We saw Fiddler on the Roof last weekend, an outdoor summer theater production -- just a lovely old thing. At the end of the play, Tevya and his family have to leave their village and head for a new home. Gotta keep moving.
But, seeing the play, it made sense that I had studied Torah at Beth Shalom for three years. Participating in this Boston-area Jewish community was like living in Anatevka. So when I saw Fiddler on the Roof, I said to my girlfriend, yeah, I used to live there. Pictured here is Rev Moshe Holcer, who grew up in a place like Anatevka and who taught me so much.
Fred Owens's photo.
So I said to Rev Moshe one morning, "I don't have a place to work, a place to stay, a place to live, it never lasts, I can't even unpack." So Rev Moshe said to me just a few words. "Keep your hat on."
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