Rainy weather working its foggy magic on a landscape is beautiful. A rainy day encourages introspection. Or at the very least a nap. I love the rain in all of its spirited and benign forms. But we have had rain day after day without much respite. This is rain of a different sort. Too much rain foments rot both above and below ground. Too much rain spoils blooms. Too much rain dampens the spirit. We have had all of the aforementioned.
A long time ago in another State, marriage, home, and occupation I was writing my Master’s thesis. As a matter of fact the weekend after I came home from my honeymoon (with the man who eventually decided he was Mr. Wrong), I spent over 20 hours pounding on the keys of an IBM computer. Remember word processing in DOS? No, not me either. That actually came 3 years later. I was typing at a TYPEWRITER and hired a TYPIST to create the final 125-page report! Back then a trip to the copy place was an event and choosing the right type of watermark paper could make a difference between acceptance and rejection of an important document. At least having it professionally bound was not a requirement back then . . .
All of that typing did not do me, my forearms, nor the first years of my marriage any good. Eventually I graduated with my Master of Science degree with a thesis that was as long as most Doctoral dissertations at the time! Oh well. That’s what happens when your first reader is a scholar in your profession and your third reader is the head of the Department of Occupational Therapy in addition to being a pioneer in the field as well. I remember Dr. Anne Fisher handing back to me the 11th total re-write of my baby: it was covered in red ink! “You are a good writer,” she said. Say what? Could you maybe mention that to your ball point pen my dear professor! Sigh. Back to the typewriter I went on my way to bilateral epicondylitis or whatever. I think eventually the repetitive motion injury from typing turned into fibromyalgia. So I got more than my “MS” degree in graduate school but I digress.
That was 25 years ago. I now live in a different State with my Intended Beloved, a different occupation, pet dog, hobbies, gardens, vehicles, hair styles, family, friends, church, and dress size! It’s all good. And today I completed three different writing projects and it only took about 12 hours! Thank goodness for word processing, the internet, and Office Depot! The 3 projects included:
Editing and completing the photo layouts/covers of the Fall issue of Canoe News of the United States Canoe Association. My husband, Steve, is the Editor and I am the Assistant Editor of this quarterly publication; Fall brings the biggest issue of the year. It took me about a week to get into the right health state to do what needed to be done and now in the wee hours of the morning I am ready to send it back to my River Bear.
Revising the Huntertown Family Park Rain Garden Project proposal and submitting it to my contact person at the Department of Natural Resources Urban Wildlife Program in application for supplemental funding.
Finally figuring out the Microsoft Sway online software program enough to a) export the October issue of Across the Fence to Word then b) create a pdf file to c) email it to the Horticulture Educator at the Allen County Purdue Extension Office. This will be my first issue as Editor of the ATF newsletter for the Master Gardeners. The Educator has been answering all my questions and yet it has been frustrating for both of us. I hit quite a few snafus with the program not working correctly in our Chrome browser at home; going back to Internet Explorer appears to have solved the problems for now!
Tomorrow will be a rest day. A good volunteer must do her jobs then rest and recover the next day. Part of my day will be praising the Lord that I could even do these tasks with the lingering effects of serious illness. Thank you Jesus for sustaining me, clearing my mind, and helping me to do the tasks to which I am called. I do pray for restoration now as there are many unfinished chores throughout the house. Please help me to take care of the things you have entrusted to my life, to love and serve my Stevers. I know that You see my responsibilities and weaknesses and watch over all of the details of my life. I rest in your gracious care my Lord. To You be the glory for the good things accomplished this day.
Jumping from a home landscape to a specialized garden in the community is a huge leap on many levels. The size and the scope of the project just multiplied by too many factors to count. I have barely pitched the project to the President of the Board of the 501c3 that owns the Community Park and drawn up a basic Site Plan. Just 6 days later, there is a 22 x 26 hole dug in the ground! Wait, what?
When I heard that there would be a Kubota tractor available to scratch-dig the rock hard base of the proposed Rain Garden, I had to move quickly! I was going to try to attend the Community Park work day on Saturday to get a sense of how things worked, meet some of the volunteers, and learn more about the park facilities. The Pres gave me a more detailed tour of the grounds, introduced me to “the guys,” shared some more history and vision, then mentioned that they would be finishing that afternoon, the prep for a sidewalk adjacent to the proposed rain garden area. The tractor would be available after that, wow, in about 3 hours!
I noticed some mega weeds around the entrance to the park so I grabbed my shovel to do some impromptu weeding; I did what I could in the hot sun. A really nice man came over from where he and his wife were staying with family across the street and offered to donate some mulch to the Park. His brother-in-law had just bought a local landscape supply business and this man wanted to know if we needed anything before an event coming up the next weekend. I gave him the President’s contact information and mentioned the rain garden project ’cause, hey, there are already mountains of mulch already on the property but not landscape-quality; tell him Julie would love the offer of some “dark hardwood mulch!” (Later the Pres just smiled; I’ll bet it’s a go!) By the time I left the park, I had met this man’s wife who became my first volunteer for the Rain Garden Project.
Off to Walmart I went to pick up some marking paint for the Pres then came home to prepare some treats for these amazing men. My energy was waning but some kind of momentum had taken over. A bunch of food, a glass of chicken bone broth and a ton of water helped revive me enough to keep going! I had most of the ingredients at home for chocolate cookies and a gallon of lemonade; surely some “appreciation treats” would be welcome as temperatures soared above 91 degrees? The conditions were tough on everyone for sure. By 1:30 p.m. I was back at the park to hang out in the shade of the picnic shelters and learn.
I am learning as much about general carpentry and construction as I am about how members of a community can work together, how much fun these men have just hanging out with each other no matter what they are doing. Most of them are retired from the trades and in their 40’s and 50’s. Building this Community Park is how they love to spend their free time together after breakfast at the Kitchen Table restaurant down the street. Perhaps it has a lot to do with the years they all once worked together in one way or another and the small town friendliness I had never witnessed up close from our housing addition across the highway. The Pres treated all of them like contractors, co-workers, brothers, and sons alike. It was beautiful to witness as they helped to craft the public facility already enjoyed by dozens of folks every day. They worked REALLY HARD that day in their respective projects!
About 3:00 p.m., the man in the Kubota tractor was ready to scratch-up the base of the rain garden. Its claw-bucket digging down few inches deep didn’t loosen up the nasty crab grass in the compacted clay/sand mix so down a full foot he had to go. It took about 30 minutes to complete the 22 x 26 foot area, much like the shape of a baseball diamond in miniature. As I do additional calculations we might need to increase the size of the rain garden yet that is still bigger than the initial site plan noted above. I realized that those dirt clods would be rock hard within half a day so I tried to weed a few chunks of those grass plants as I could in the searing heat . . . with a couple of breaks just to cool off a bit. It took a long time, leaving much more for another day and team of volunteers. Even I was munching on a chocolate cookie and drinking lemonade before the day was done! 🙂
Sunday morning the guys would be meeting again for breakfast at the Kitchen Table before finishing adding the mesh to the sidewalk plus other preparations before the delivery of concrete on Monday by 2:00 p.m. I was glad that the Pres had shared with me about the sidewalk so I could ask if they cold add the crushed limestone instead of dirt along the outer edge; this would match the other stone edge already in place along what would become the top of periphery of the rain garden (i.e. the front horizontal and right perpendicular edges in the photo above). It might not be the most aesthetic choice of materials however those two stone borders would definitely be easier to maintain than a berm made of dirt that would eventually grow weeds. While I have begun seeking volunteers from the Master Gardener and Native Gardener groups locally to help build and maintain the the rain garden, I see signs all over the park of “good idea” projects that don’t look as good anymore, lost to poor follow-up. Low maintenance must be part of this garden design!
Some interest in the rain garden project grew among the guys, just by being there, hanging out, and helping here and there where I could. One gentleman told a story of how he used Roundup to kill all the grass in his yard before re-planting his lawn. So we talked about the effect of glyphosate on beneficial insects, how it can effect plants in the area for up to 6 months, and how it would basically not work with the project here. Beneficial insects pollinate the flowers of the tap-rooted plants that hold and filter the water runoff plus help prevent all the flooding that lasts for days on this side of the bathroom building after heavy rains. No insects, no healthy plants, no rain garden. Another man suggested using the extra pavers they had on the property which we could use for the outer border (i.e. to form the berm that prevents spillover; we would add drainage windows too). Even the Pres said he could probably work with a local landscaping company to build a flagstone path through the area which would enhance interest for visitors in addition to helping with weeding and such. I agreed, taking lots of mental notes. Chances are that I will see these hardworking men again . . .
So tonight I put together a flyer about the Community Family Park Rain Garden project. How poetic to set in motion something like this that will actually come to fruition through the “organic” interest and talents of so many wonderful folks in my community. Momentum has started as I continue to recover from a setback in July. So grateful to have something else focus on: my own Horticulture Therapy! The flyer will likely become a temporary sign along the edge of our big dirt hole so that folks attending the Heritage Festival this weekend will know that something really cool is about to happen there soon. Maybe some will join in and help? I feel really privileged and honored to have this opportunity that came about just by taking a little online class, just by making a little post on Facebook, . There is so much more going on here and it transcends me for sure.
Then again, that is always the case now isn’t it Gentle Reader? Yeah God! JJ
11The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
“Rainy days and Mondays always get me down . . .” sang vocalist Karen Carpenter many decades ago. I respectfully disagree.
How poetic is it that after a very trying month of family care-giving, family drama, summer travel, and exhausting events out in the elements that our “rainy days” of late could turn a corner to mean something else? Enter here the Master Rain Gardener Class offered by Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner in Michigan. Let us turn the rains of life into something good!
Rain gardens are specialty garden beds designed to filter water runoff from hard surfaces in your landscape. They help to manage potential flooding, attract beneficial insects and wildlife, often include plants native to the region, and are simply lovely. I am halfway through the 5-week class and am hooked on this idea. I included a rain garden in our class project for my Master Gardener training which is where this interest began. Connection with a local Native Master Gardener and her native plant nursery furthered my intrigue so I included butterfly weed and a native hibiscus in one of our garden beds. Now its time to get serious . . . and fast before the class ends in 2 weeks!
I posted a plea on Facebook looking for anyone who would like to work with me on a rain garden project for my certification as a Master Rain Gardener. A self-called “community connector” responded and put me in touch with the President of the Board for the not-for-profit that manages a large park in our hometown. He is interested in the idea! There is already an environmental education project for kids on the property. I took some pictures before and after a huge rainstorm which suggested some viable locations. We will be meeting soon!
Below I will post a picture of the location I am recommending that is adjacent to the cinder block building that houses the public bathrooms and vending facility. The location is highly visible to patrons of the park, there is a water outlet nearby to help in getting the plants established the first year or so, and there is already evidence of water accumulating in a low area. There is much work to do and many unknowns should this project go forward. No problemmo. The beautification project in our housing association took six months to come to fruition and is largely a success to day. Besides, I kinda like this theme more than the other “rainy days” in my life of late!
Stay tuned. Always something goin’ on over here and if it’s green then, for me, it is good! JJ