Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day April 22nd, 2009

One year ago today, on April 22, 2008 a few of my neighbors and I decided to cross the street and meet our other neighbor...the Crestview Baptist Church and offer up a beautification project.
I had recently finished the TreeFolks "Citizen Forrester" program and was excited about planting trees as I'd watched 5 die in the 12 years I'd lived in my house. I'd done this before and was met with some harsh judgement but decided to try it again as there was a new pastor with the title "Neighborhood Liaison." His name is David Tobey and sadly, he no longer lives here but he was the first person to listen and agree that something needed to be done. The property was all St. Augustine and the sprinkler ran in the middle of the day half the time and often had water running down the street due to broken heads.
I applied for free native trees, and got it! We were given 17 trees and were able to rally some 20 neighbors and several Church folk to join in. The Church provided a delicious taco and Iced Tea luncheon. The event took place the first Saturday in November and we were able to get 8 cubic yards of free mulch from Davey's Trees and I pitched in the organic fertilizer. My next door neighbor Dana pulled out free T-shirts for everyone who stayed to the end and we all made new friends. It was wonderful

Melvin installing the Solitary Bee Habitat, gift of the 2009 CAMN graduating class.

This man, Melvin Sawyer has become my friend and hero. He's 81 years old and can work any man I've met this far in my life, under the table...without complaint and only a Dr. Pepper or two to keep him going.
On Valentines Day this year I offered to put in a rose garden for the church. Melvin and his wife JoAnne showed up to help, as did my lovely French neighbor Regine. My husband Greg, myself, Regine and Melvin installed 9 Martha Gonzales roses after digging out and prepping the beds. JoAnne made us coffee as it was freezing that morning, I made Melvin's favorite cookies, oatmeal raisin.
A few days later I was walking by with my dogs and noticed he'd made a concrete sign that reads "Thanks 2009" with a heart, he told me later he didn't know how to spell my name. To say Melvin is a man of few words, is an overstatement.
About a month later, Melvin built a few benches and sunk them in concrete for the folks walking by. When I caught up with him I told him how much I loved them, the following day I found one for me on my front porch.
Melvin digging a hole for the roses on the Pergola
A few months later, Melvin and I had a conversation about building a pergola...for more roses. Melvin spent 50 years as a carpenter and loves a challenge. He build the Pergola along with 4 benches in a few days. He then added benches across from all the neighbors houses so they could sit and watch the trees grow.

Melvin's Pergola with Cecille Bruner climbing roses.

Yesterday, for Earth Day he and I worked 5 hours straight. We pulled weeds, fed and watered the roses, repaired a trellis for a tree that was leaning, and planted climbing roses along with natives on two islands in the parking lot.

This is the ugly little island...

Here's Melvin turning the soil..."we don't need a tiller" he said.

Here's Melvin attacking the other abandoned island.

We left a spot at the end, but planted Salvia Greggi and Mexican Feather Grass on the other end. I had been telling Melvin about the Purple Martin Habitats and how I thought the empty parking lot would be a perfect place as the birds could see it in the clearing. He said, I can build that...can you get me a pattern? Yes, I can do that.
When he finishes, we'll put it in the center of the grassy end of the island, then we're going to plant Bulbine and Hymenoxis around the pole.

In the afternoon my friend Jennifer who lives at the end of the street came strolling down and joined in the clean-up efforts! Thanks Jenji!

The Bee Habitat on my front pergola faces south and is about 8 feet from the ground.
And, like the good neighbor Melvin is, after he finished at the Church he helped me put up two Bee Habitat's at my house. I couldn't have imagined becoming such good friends with Melvin, we at first seemed to come from polar opposite ends of understanding the spiritual world...but with that shelved, we realized that we have a world of things in common. I truly enjoy his old school gentlemanly nature, his love of all things "good n' tasty", and things Texan. We both have a hard time understanding folks that prefer to sit on the couch and watch TV rather than actually doing something and have a work ethic that says, no problem...I can do it, quickly and correctly. I've learned that even though he says he doesn't know a thing about flowers, Melvin has a beautiful yard, that I'm helping him care for and have installed the things that he likes in my yard...I put up signs so he could learn the names of the flowers, and he likes that. He's got lots of bird houses and bird baths and his yard is nearly a wildlife habitat now. Melvin has helped me build an extension to my pergola, that he built with just auditory need for a drawing, he just waved his hand and got to work. We've been exchanging plants and projects, talking about the future of the property, our kids, how Austin is doesn't matter what, it's always kind and gentle and I genuinely love spending time with him. Earth Day has become my favorite holiday for many reasons. I love devoting a day to someone else's space, knowing that my neighbors and passersby will enjoy the changes they see. I like the lack of material responsibility: buying gifts and tacky repetitive songs...that it's not about who gets what or who might feel left out, if you choose not to participate...then that's your choice. We all live on this planet, some folks believe that we're destroying it, others don't but we can all get out to make it better... and if we all did, imagine the sense of community we would be creating.
I asked "How did you spend Earth Day" on my face book page and got some great answers...from swimming at Barton Springs to planting a vegie garden, to taking my kids to the park...awareness is the first step and I'm open to hearing your ideas about next years
Earth Day.
Happy Gardening


vertie said...

What a sweet post. I love how gardening has brought many new friends of all ages into my life. Sounds like you've lucked out as well.

Anonymous said...

It's so nice to meet folks from different backgrounds and workout how much you (we all) have in common.

Meadowview Thymes said...

What an inspiring post! Sounds like you have a gardening soulmate! I'm afraid Earth Day found me sitting at my desk wishing I was digging in the dirt!
Happy Gardening!

Lori said...

Awesome post! It sounds like your church site beautification project has really turned into something wonderful.

And I love that arbor with the Martha Gonzales roses around it.

ConsciousGardener said...

Thanks's a journey!

Sande said...

This is a wonderful post. It reminds me of what life is supposed to be about. Good friends are priceless.
Thanks for posting.

Cindy, My Corner of Katy said...

Melvin is an inspiration! What a great way to spend Earth Day ... you're an inspiration, too, Cheryl!

Rosehaven Cottage said...

This is a wonderful post! Melvin sounds like an absolute gem and you are as well for doing so much for the community in which you live. It is individuals like the two of you that will make this world a better place... one little parking lot island at a time.


Bonnie said...

! I just love seeing that church so transformed. You have really done yourself proud! And the trellises are awesome- I am showing them to my husband to inspire him to build one for me. Congratulations on such a stunning project.

ConsciousGardener said...

Thanks Bonnie, all the credit goes to was my idea and I explained how I would like to have it done with the benches and all...but he did it, without a drawing...he also did an extension on my pergola...again with just a verbal conversation! He's awesome!

KellyT said...

thank you, thank you, thank you! though we no longer live in Crestview, I have fond memories as 7715 Tisdale was our first home and where our first child was born. Melvin was our neighbor and I've never forgotten him. He is a an amazing man! He helped us with several projects and I was always thrilled/stunned/inspired by his work ethic and good neighborliness. I don't know how many times I drove by CV Baptist Church and lamented the HUGE GREEN st. augustine lawn. How many 1000's of gallons of water went into that lawn?! I don't drive thru Crestview much anymore, but I will make a special trip to swing by and appreciate your kind efforts.

ConsciousGardener said...

Kelly T, I will have Melvin in for some cookies and show him your comments...he doesn't have a computer!

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