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The Great Neighborhood Garden Project

So I received a text from Neighbor J two days ago: Would you like to participate in a community garden? X says we can use his fenced area; it’s full of raised beds.

Every year since the truly heavy DIY work on the former Ye Olde Wreck (now Mo Saoirce Hermitage) was finished, I’ve been promising that this will be the year I build raised beds and plant a veggie garden.

Every year, the expense of the project plus the fact that I’m a really, truly, terribly awful black-thumbed gardener means I put on my guilt and put off the project. Why go to all that time, cost, and trouble to get a few dozen misshapen strawberries, one-inch tomatoes, and potatoes with brown empty spots in their centers?

Reader and friend FM has been encouraging me to build and plant those beds, supplying cost-saving information, and sending me pix of his budding crops. I’ve promised him that this year is really, truly, no-kidding, the year. But the truth is I’ve still been looking for reasons to procrastinate — and I have lots of them. Believe me. And I can find lots more. Just give me a minute to look around at all the other work needed on this place.

But there, just down the street, is a YUGE fenced area, nearly an acre big, that already has raised beds and isn’t being used. X, who owns five acres, was actively managing that garden with the help of his young girlfriend (and five dogs) until a couple years ago when he got injured and lost his oomph.

Brilliant Neighbor J asked and he offered.

J started contacting the Usual Suspects in her circle. I instantly told J yes, absolutely, I’m in. Whoohoo, let me at ’em!

The next day, we trekked over to X’s place for a closer look.

Oh my. It’s a wonderful opportunity, but I forgot what a mere two years of neglect will do in this fecund region.

It also turns out that there’s much more than that single fenced acre. There are three fenced garden areas, an empty chicken pen, an overgrown orchard of blueberry bushes, quite a few herb hedges, and several mature fruit trees — all ours to manage and harvest from as we wish.

The 85-year-old lady next door (whose house is closest to the big fenced garden) has offered to supply water in exchange for a share of the crop.

We haven’t worked out specifics with X as to what he wants in exchange for turning all this bounty (and hard work) over to us. But J already ordered a tiller from Home Depot and my next job is to walk over to X’s place with loppers and begin cutting out the blackberry starts that are crowding the blueberries bushes and taking over some terraced beds.


A post or two ago, I remarked that government overreach on the novel coronavirus
would probably hit rural economies harder and longer than urban economies. I had in mind the way the government-enforced panic is likely to put more of us on the dole and shutter more of our already-struggling businesses forever.

In a comment, Ellendra differed, pointing out that she’s hearing more people making plans for self-sufficiency. Gardens. Chickens. And more. She makes an encouraging point.

I think the reality will go both ways. Rural and small-town businesses and individuals will be harder hit than urbanites. They’ve already been being hit for years by economic policies and environmental legislation (to which, in our area, heavily populated cities are granted exemptions while the places city dwellers regard as their weekend playgrounds are forced into compliance with draconian measures to preserve them for benefit of people who don’t live here).

But as Ellendra says, the creative and resourceful will dig in (in this case, literally) and take care of themselves and each other.

With several households in the project, I might even find both inspiration and information to make carrots grow to actual carrot size. Or something. It could happen.


  1. Pat
    Pat March 27, 2020 1:36 pm

    HOLY TOLEDO and WOW! What a beautiful piece of garden property that is!!

    And what potential for the neighborhood — and for much of the town, in fact; you could set up your own farmer’s market, and fill your own pantries as well.

    Don’t take on too much at one time, Claire, but concentrate on what YOU need or want first, and then expand as your confidence grows (and it will!).

    Good luck to all…

  2. Just Waiting
    Just Waiting March 27, 2020 1:47 pm

    I echo Pat. WOW! What an amazing find and opportunity.

  3. Myself
    Myself March 27, 2020 2:36 pm

    Somewhat off this subject, but since the last song a shared was a bit dark, and on FB, here’s a lighter one on Utube

  4. Jorge
    Jorge March 27, 2020 2:38 pm

    Yeah, really. Good luck with that. It could be great.

  5. ellendra
    ellendra March 27, 2020 2:50 pm

    Awesome opportunity there!

    I see there’s a bumper crop of dogs already growing 🙂

  6. larryarnold
    larryarnold March 27, 2020 3:53 pm

    Southerners During Quarantine:

    Rural and small-town businesses and individuals will be harder hit than urbanites.

    That might depend on state politics. In Texas the rural vote, while a minority, is still strong enough to tell cities to pound sand with their OSFA “solutions.”

    My county is still Covid-free, so things are pretty relaxed. We’ve got the emergency command folks up-and-running, and they’re coordinating with our truly excellent medical center.

    Now that the President is talking about prioritizing counties high, medium, and low-risk, testing being put in place, and relaxing restrictions that aren’t economical, I’m thinking rural areas might be lots better off.

    He’s still my second-worst choice, but it is entertaining to watch Democrats bitch that “Not even a pandemic will get him out of office.”

    Fun facts:
    1. Our local Catholic schools went into full “distance-learning” mode with Chromebooks and dedicated software last Monday. The local ISD projects they’ll be online next week sometime. (To be fair, the Catholic schools serve a couple of hundred kids, and the ISD more than 4,000. But the ISD has a lot more money per student, and supposedly more “expertise.”)
    2. Our County Court has been pondering the possibility of videoing meetings for later playback. Now all-of-a-sudden the County Judge is putting out YouTube updates and staging virtual press conferences, a case of old dogs learning new tricks.

    Good gardening. My wife and I share your black thumb, but it’s outside work for an essential benefit. Down here after two years a garden like that would be bare dirt. And given that we have the highest population of whitetail deer in the world, it would have a much higher fence.

  7. Tahn
    Tahn March 27, 2020 4:07 pm

    Yes! What Pat said and Just Waiting echoed. Wonderful!

  8. Old Printer
    Old Printer March 28, 2020 6:48 am

    It’s been a long time since I posted here (or attempted to) but nice to see you back.

    I was thinking that since I still have an old printing press in the garage that this might be the time to volunteer printing up some Hamiltons and Benjamins. With that bill the Pres signed yesterday it’s obvious they they’re going to need a whole lot of those floating around, wheelbarrows full in fact. And what with the toilet paper shortage still raging, they will have a dual use down the road.

    Just want to do my part during the crisis.

  9. Comrade X
    Comrade X March 28, 2020 7:42 am

    Coronavirus Victory Garden, lets roll!

  10. ellendra
    ellendra March 29, 2020 9:45 am

    I have some squash and bean varieties that were developed for the northwet climate, would you like some seeds?

    (Fair warning: the squash is a vining type. It will take over wherever it’s planted.)

  11. Claire
    Claire March 29, 2020 11:37 am

    Ellendra, thank you. What a great offer. The beans would be fantastic; that’s not usually a crop people grow here. I don’t know about the squash. I don’t eat it, but I’ll ask the others. I’ll email you privately.

    I just returned from two hours of chopping blackberries (speaking of crops that will take over the world) out of the “corona virus victory garden” 😁 while singing the quarantine song to myself.

    One of the other gardeners is weedwacking around the raised beds and the lady next door raised her window and offered us garden equipment, parking space, and soft drinks and water from the fridge in her garage. She said the place looks better already — and it does!

  12. firstdouglas
    firstdouglas March 29, 2020 12:02 pm

    Very cool, what you’ve just found down the street! We are creating additional raised beds here too. No great expense, as we can just drag our building materials off the nearby beach.

  13. patrick fowler
    patrick fowler March 29, 2020 2:33 pm

    Hi Claire I garden as a hobby and have a couple heirloom varieties of tomato … been working with these several years now … both are very productive and hardy. One is cherry size and one is plum size. How do I get seeds to you? This is Patrick the signmaker that lost his hearing

  14. Owl
    Owl March 30, 2020 8:52 am

    Those that are least effected by major disruptions are those who live closest to the land.

  15. Claire
    Claire March 30, 2020 11:42 am

    Hi, Patrick. Of course I remember you (and the beautiful work you do). That’s a great offer, too. Let me talk with the other gardeners and get back with you by email. I think we’d need a greenhouse or indoor starting area to grow tomatoes from seed in this climate. And our “greenhouse” is currently in pieces all over the garden area. But you’ll hear from me shortly. Thank you!

  16. Myself
    Myself March 30, 2020 12:03 pm


    I’ve always liked song, I preferred the earlier on PC version, but this one pretty good

  17. M
    M March 30, 2020 6:43 pm

    Goats would clean that out and fertilize that…almost Kid season, just sayin’

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