from St Anselms Chapel Center @ USF
A few weeks ago I posted pictures from the construction phase of our Chapel Center garden. This is a new creation, a beginning, but it is also the culmination of a lot of wishful thinking and hopeful conversations. It started last year with one of our students who wanted to be able to plant some vegetables at the Center.
Vegetables and herbs would be great, I said.
You can plant whatever you want, said our chaplain, as long as you plant tomatoes.
Our garden plans grew and grew, though, as the proverb goes, you can’t plow a field by turning it over in your mind. One Sunday night I was waxing eloquent to one of our parishioners about all the things “we” were going to do. She finally said: Wait a minute–who is “we”?!
Well, I admitted, just me and one of the students. But we think we can gather a community around this project.
(I must also admit at this point that I have absolutely no gardening experience. None whatsoever. My family accuses me of having a black thumb, in fact, based on my history with house plants, in spite of several hardy African violets that have prospered under my benign neglect.)
For those of us who tend to procrastinate a bit, one of the nice things about being in a university environment is that you are ever mindful of the fact that the clock is ticking. Our students are only with us for a short time so you can’t put things off indefinitely. When we came back together at the Center this fall, we decided that if a garden was going to be at all, it must be started as soon as possible. Fortunately, the Center sits on a large lot so we had available space. Also, in Florida we can grow crops year round, though the chance of colder winter temperatures here definitely has a say in what we can reasonably expect to plant in the fall.
Here’s where interesting things began to happen. “God-winks,” I think they are called.
We already knew we would need to bring in garden soil since our lot is too sandy to support crops well. Our student had by chance visited my son in Alexandria this past summer and admired his garden.
She asked: Couldn’t we put in raised garden beds like Matthew’s?
I’m not a gardener and also not a carpenter. Plus, I was already beginning to wonder what the final tab might be on our home grown lettuce. I asked my son about his garden installation and he offered to draw up some plans for us. After he thought about it a little, he suggested that, since it was a church garden, it might be a good idea to design beds that would be decorative as well as functional.
So, he said, what about building the garden in the shape of a Jerusalem cross?
And our community started to grow.
Matthew drew up beautiful plans, wishing he could come to Tampa and build them. When his band was scheduled to travel to Jacksonville, he applied for a few days’ leave and suddenly we had a window of opportunity for construction! The next step was to find lumber, gardening soil, and gravel in time for a quick delivery.
By this time we had added another parishioner from St Catherine’s, who just happened to be passing by one morning at church (yet another God-wink) and overheard me talking about starting a community garden. He paused long enough to say that he’d like to help. Alan was the one who suggested I contact Mother’s Organics, who donated soil to our project for just the cost of delivery.
We have starter plants out now. Not all the beds are full but we are gradually adding plants, testing soil and sun to see which plants are happiest in that spot.
Already Jesus’ parables about seeds and planting have taken on a new meaning for me. We may not be dealing with a rocky path or choking thorns but I suspect we may experience scorching heat, drought, Florida bugs, and an occasional stray animal or two.
More to come on this! Stay tuned!