Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Walk on down to Walker Jones Farm

I spent almost the entirety of this weekend out of doors. Boy, do I need to do that more often.

Saturday was a marathon barbecue organized by my dear cousin Sonia and her husband -- ostensibly to celebrate their daughter Ani's first birthday, but the occasion conveniently provided the largely Armenian/Ukranian crowd an excuse to consume a seemingly endless supply of grilled pork, roasted potatoes and peppers, and vodka on an almost impossibly beautiful day.

Sunday morning, after my ritual trip to the farmers' market, I biked over to K and New Jersey, NW, for a long overdue visit to DC's second urban farm. While Ollie and I got a little turned around on the ride over -- I have yet to work out why I always seem to miss the turnoff to K Street after it merges with Massachusetts Avenue when I cut through Chinatown -- I arrived about a half hour into the community workday. Within ten minutes Sarah had me weeding the cabbage rows. One group was building tomato trellises. Another was digging holes for herb transplants. The largest group was loosening soil and tilling in piles of peat moss to prepare the ground for berry bushes. (Blueberries in particular prefer more acidic soil, and peat moss is a common, organic amendment to lower soil pH. Don't say that you never learned anything here on the bikeable feast blog, eh? And speaking of learning, I should mention that the farm is as much focused on food and garden education as on sustainable production -- it's a project after my own heart.)

A bit later, after a luscious chocolaty, coconutty cupcake nearly sent me into sugar shock (I don't each much sugar these days), I somehow ended up in charge of tomato transplanting. After Sarah gave me a rundown on the process, I began to demonstrate and delegate tasks: clearing the mulch, mixing in organic tomato food, digging holes, filling the watering can, snapping off the bottom leaves, planting up to the bottom leaves, watering.... Some have leadership thrust upon them, you know? Those were the most meticulously planted and staked 20 tomato seedlings this city has ever seen.

Actually, I missed the final step -- staking the tomato plants (which encourages upward, rather than sprawling, growth) -- because Sarah sent two of us off in her station wagon to pick up blueberry bushes. Allon and I made our way to the hardware store, loaded up 4 different varieties of ready-to-fruit bushes, and made our way back to the farm. (Note: even by car I am unable to work out the K St/Mass Ave conundrum. I wonder some days how on earth I made my way around the country....) By the time we returned with the trunkful of shrubs, most of the 20 or so volunteers had made their way to part two of The Awesome Foundation's day of support for Walker Jones: a happy hour fundraiser. (BTW, I am somewhat obsessed with The Awesome Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting all kinds of cool, local projects through small grants. And now there's a chapter in DC....)

So here's Sarah, just before she and I planted the newly acquired blueberry bushes into the freshly acidified, loosened soil. I actually missed the happy hour -- dang, and I'd been meaning to check out Passenger Bar for some time now -- but when we finished up around 3:30 I figured it was time to get myself to Mike's place for some late afternoon gardening there, where I am the official edible garden adviser. (More on Mike and Alicia's urban homestead to come in a future post.)

Now that I know how to get there, I plan to make my way back to The Farm at Walker Jones with some regularity. You can come, too. Check out the beautiful urban food growing space, meet one of DC's friendliest urban farmers, get your hands in the dirt. If you're lucky there may be a cupcake or a tshirt in it for you. (Not that you're doing it for the tshirt. The donated cupcakes, however, may themselves be worth the trip.) Open volunteer days are on Sundays from 12-4pm and Thursdays from 3-6pm. Hope to see you there soon!

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