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Detective Story

True detective brings you a tale of mistaken identity…

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The Community Garden Plot

We live in a town house with a tiny yard, if you can call it a yard, with a grand total of twelve square feet of garden, in which we have three hosta plants. Other gardening happens in a few pots of herbs and annuals that Margie takes care of every summer. Seeing as how Margie is thinking ahead to the day when she’ll have more time for gardening, in other words – the day she retires from her job – she’s been thinking about getting a plot at a community garden. Terry has had one of these for five years, and every summer we go over a few times to have a look and a picnic on occasion. It’s close by, a five minute drive at most, and is one of hundreds of plots that form a large farm like garden nestled in a lovely vale through which the creek that flows out of our lake here runs on its way to the ocean.

Thinking it would be a good idea to get her name on the waiting list, which she knew to be long enough that it usually took some years to get a plot, Margie called them two years ago and put her name down. She expected it might be up to five years before a plot came up, so she was surprised when a friend told her that they got a plot not long after they signed up. Then several days ago she got a call that there were two plots available. She contacted the man who takes care of new members, and arranged to go select a plot after work. He told her his address and added that he lived across from the gardens.

I picked Margie up at 3 pm and we set off for the gardens. When we got to the corner of the street where we always turned to visit Terry’s plot, Margie said this wasn’t the name of the street on which the man lived. Thinking it must be the next street over we drove down to the parking lot and took out our map, hoping to find said street close by. The name of the street was familiar but we couldn’t remember where it was exactly. Then we saw that it was not close by at all. Yet the man had said he lived across from the gardens, hadn’t he? Yes, he said that, Margie reiterated. Off we went up the main road about a half mile to the street. We were looking at numbers now, watching for his house when we noticed that on the right side of this street there was what looked to be a community garden, judging by a multitude of small plots.

Thinking this was a satellite segment of the gardens Terry’s plot belonged to, we parked and went to the door. We were expected, and the man got his coat on as we made small talk. Margie said that she had no idea this section of the garden existed, recounting how we thought the plot was to have been back at the site where we’d just been. He looked at us quizzically and informed us they were unrelated, distinct organizations. I looked at Margie, who looked at me, and we both laughed, but not too loud. Her name had been on the wrong list for two years. That explained how it was the person she knew had got a plot at the other garden before Margie, but now it was too late to do anything about that.

We inspected the two plots and selected one further from the road. It had a water spigot close by, and the plot gets full sun all day long in summer, good for a vegetable garden. Back at the house Margie duly signed forms, and then it was time to pay. The cost turned out to be less than one third of the other, and the plot to be only half as large; both facts to our advantage. Terry’s plot, at 1200 square feet, has always been too large to fully utilize, and this one will be more than enough at 500. The setting is not quite as idyllic as expected, but the purpose is more about growing vegetables, less about admiring scenery.

There is a compost bin and a worn out storage box on site. Vestiges of Swiss chard are here and there, waiting to be pulled out come spring, along with a variety of other green things left over from last summer. On the parking lot is a large pile of leaves left by the city for use as mulch and future compost. Off to one side are several small sheds, inside of which are lawnmowers and various tools. Beside one shed a number of wheelbarrows are stacked up and wrapped in a chain. The chain has no lock, but serves to deter casual theft of wheelbarrows by pranksters. The entire hillside is deserted now in winter, a patchwork of rectangles covered with dirt, tarps, box frames and dead plants.

Membership in the garden cost $10, and is for life. This entitles members to discounts at local garden supply houses. In a few months we will be selecting seeds and preparing the ground. Margie has already declared her intention to have peas, for which I will be required to build a trellis or two. However, we will not be able to transplant any of the grape vines that Terry has. He transferred his plot to a friend, since he will no longer be using it. We gave him some grape plants a few years ago, and they are just now beginning to spread and establish themselves. Perhaps cuttings from those will root and we will have our own grapevines one day. The good thing is the garden is no further from home than the one we were expecting, so we can drop in and give the plants water in a matter of minutes. Amazingly, we were informed that this garden hasn’t got a deer problem. Like us, the deer had no idea there was a garden here, which is why they all go to the other community garden, where for two years Margie mistakenly thought her name was on the waiting list.

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