Last June, I titled a blog entry First Ever Guest Gardeners. “First Ever” implied that there would be more guest gardeners. EEEK.  It took me a little while, but I’m coming through on that promise today.

Meet Guest Gardener Megan Kaminski. I really like Megan Kaminski. She is a poet. She has been published in a lot of cool places. I will name three that I like: CutbankDenver Quarterly, and Everyday Genius. She recently had her first full-length book of poetry published–Desiring Map–and it is great. She teaches at KU, and she does a lot for her students. Not only do I hear about how helpful her teaching is from friends, but she has founded a few different reading events for her undergraduate students, including an exchange with creative writing students from other states. She also curates a non-KU based Lawrence reading. That’s a lot. Yesterday I saw her sitting outside in a circle in the sun with her class. I wanted to yell “hello!” but I didn’t want to make a scene. Have I convinced you of Megan’s level of cool yet?

Most important to this blog entry, Megan is my friend. I wanted to be her friend for at least a year, but was too nervous to ask. Then, sometime last year we realized that we both had gardens. And after some encouragement from a mutual friend, I invited her to visit the community garden. Then she took me to her garden. You can figure out the rest of the story. Since she’s a successful poet and academic, Megan gives me quite a bit of advice–about publishing and not publishing, about MFA programs, about how being a writer means actually writing.  And I trust her opinion. Sometimes she buys me french fries at the Burger Stand, and that’s also cool. This is us at the AWP book fair in Chicago.

Before she moved to Lawrence, Megan lived in a lot of different cities (Portland, Paris, LA). She told me that she had successful gardens in those cities. She even had two successful summers in Lawrence. You can see photos of those successful gardens on her blog here.

However, last summer, the rabbits and deer and maybe other creatures ate almost everything. So, a few weeks ago, Megan asked me to help her with her garden. She’s given me so much guidance, I was honored and excited to reciprocate.

When I got there, Megan already had a plan drawn out. Essentially the idea was to put greens on the edges of the garden and to planta lot of stuff, so that even if the rabbits did eat stuff, there would still be plenty left.

Then we put up the pea trellis and planted peas, lettuce, chard, spinach, beets, and onions. That is Megan with her garden. I think it’s going to be a good year for her.

Afterward, we went inside and ate nice cheese from The Merc and crackers and grapes. I also accidentally spilled water all over the table because apparently I am like a small child.

Kara Bollinger, M.A. writing you directly from the bright, lovely state of Kansas. I defended my thesis with zero hang ups. I didn’t even need the nerf gun I had stashed under the table. After writing my thesis for two semesters, I’m able to intelligently talk about it to a group of professors. Hells bells, imagine that.

After spending Tuesday defending and celebrating, I did garden things Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday. If this surprises you, well…um…that’s weird. Four days of work means there’s a lot to tell you. But mostly photos.

Wednesday I discovered I was tired. Sometimes I finish something major, and then I crash. Or get sick over Thanksgiving break because it’s the only time I have time to be sick. I think this happens to most people. Anyway, I realized this on Wednesday, my busiest-on-campus-all-day-long-no-breaks day. I didn’t want to build a pea trellis that day, but garden mate Clare and I had already decided we would.

Building stuff in the community garden is a fun puzzle where you find whatever scraps are around and then create something out of it. It hasn’t not worked yet. Clare already had a general plan of how we should build the trellis. And after a bit of brainstorming, we had one. Again, like last year’s trellis friend Justin help me build, it’s very One Hundred Acre Woodsy. I love it. It’s not that tall yet, but in a few weeks when I’m antsy with free time, I’ll add to it.

I also took some photos of things growing, because they are my favorite before they grow up.

Baby kale.

Baby bok choi.

The pretty mixed greens.

Though the day was hectic and I still had a softball game to play that night at 10 pm(woah!), I felt so much better when I left the garden, as I always do.

Much like the compost in the fall, the city of Lawrence sells mulch in the spring, so on Thursday garden pal Nic and I went and got a truck bed full. I don’t have much to tell you about this except that 1) getting mulch has been my personal goal all spring because the weeds around my plot are getting real crazy 2) it sorta sprinkled the whole time which gave the whole loading/unloading mulch thing a new level of intensity and 3) I really enjoy doing things that oppose gendered norms (ie girls aren’t supposed to be good at unloading mulch). Take that masculinity/femininity.

On Sunday, I worked in the garden for almost 2 full hours. *Sings “Glorious” in high pitched annoying voice* I invited my students to come to the garden. We’re reading Michael Pollan’s  The Omnivore’s Dilemma. It’s also at the point in the semester where they decide they really need extra credit, so…I offered them a few extra credit options related to the book, one of which was coming to the garden and writing about it. Another option is to write about the Farmer’s Market. This morning one of my students asked if I knew how to cook swiss chard; he bought some at the market. After I spouted off a number of spices he could use and what he should serve with it, he said “Oh. So you definitely know how to cook it.” Best teaching moment of the day. I know I’m supposed to teach them English and not how to garden or eat locally, but can’t I do both?

Though I had six or seven students excitedly tell me they were going to come to the garden, no one showed up initially! I was a little bummed, but then…when we were almost done working, one student showed up. Faith in humanity restored. We planted okra, popping corn, and put down a bunch of mulch to keep the weeds out. Today I told my students that I cried myself to sleep in a bed of spinach because of the low turn out…and they thought that was hilarious.

The crying thing isn’t true, though. I’ve never cried in a bed of spinach. Sunday evening garden time makes me feel sunny and smiley and worn out and like it was all worth it. It might be my favorite of the week. Our attempt to be at the garden at the same time at least once a week is working out well. There were eight of us there, and not only did we get a lot done, but we also got to chat/brainstorm/laugh/smile. There were also salted caramel cookies.

**I realize I skipped Friday. A third guest gardener is on the way.**

The last blog post was a downer. Honest and real, but a downer.  This post is going to be ultra-uplifting. Plus, yesterday, my dad asked if I had a back up plan if I didn’t get a job  (thanks for the vote of confidence, Jeff!). Sure don’t! Maybe I don’t have to say goodbye to the garden. I can move into the shed, sleep in a wheel barrow.

I also felt really responsible when my parents had to tell me to throw out moldy/smelly stuff from my fridge. Remember that butter post? The butter had smelled super funky for awhile but I thought that’s how it was supposed to smell. When you churn your own butter, there are no preservatives. Someone say “duh.”

Anyway, on to uplifting thoughts on community organization:

We had an emergency garden meeting last week. We sent super serious emails, chose a meeting time, and then at the meeting, laughed and smiled a lot and talked about ambitious things to do in the garden. So…not an emergency. But necessary. Bottom line: we need more organization.

When a newer member asked if things were always this relaxed, I realized they weren’t. After some reflection, we decided that things had changed for a number of reasons. First, my first year in the garden, we had: 1) a bossy person 2) a girl whose occupation was “community organizer” 3) a stellar group of middle schoolers who volunteered every week and pulled a ton of weeds and turned a lot of compost. None of these people are part of the garden anymore. Second, the number of community gardeners decreased in the last two years. So, we’re taking care of as much space and attempting as many things as before, but with fewer people. Finally, those of us who are gardening are there at different times and don’t see each other often. It’s hard to know what needs to be done. And it feels so solitary.

This garden is wonderful and shouldn’t feel solitary, nor should it be weedy, so we made changes. We changed our meeting time to accommodate more gardeners (5 pm on Sunday nights, you Lawrencians who have a hankering to garden). We made a list of tasks. We chose a treasurer. We sent a detailed email with our new ideas/plans/lists.

So, I might be projecting a little bit here, but stick with me: my thesis is about community work and writing, so I can’t help but consider the community garden in the context of that. I see strikingly similar complications/difficulties between my thesis and the community garden: the importance of communication, shared goals, reciprocity, collaboration.  Maybe it’s like when you buy a new car and then you see that car everywhere you go, but I think the connections are there. Or maybe my thesis is just about something I care about/believe in, so it’s connected to my other interests/hobbies.

This is not an indication of failure.  This is the nature of community work. It is fluid, changing, ongoing.  You are always clearing out weeds, re-planning and re-planting the same space, and working out the kinks because there are always weeds, seeds, and kinks.  Any time one piece leaves or is added or changes, everything shifts.

I’m also interested in researching why some people choose community gardens over their own private gardens. Another blog post. Or a book.

So, today was Sunday #1 of More Organized Community Garden. We worked on one item of our list–cleaning up the north fence.  *strains to remember cardinal directions*

Though we worked for an hour, we didn’t uncover much space. But, we put cardboard over it so the weeds/vines/trees won’t grow back. A work in progress.

We also practiced better communication. Garden friend Michael left us this note about planting corn. Handwritten notes held down by porcelain angels always trump emails. And our plan for overlap worked; Clare, Huan, and I were leaving the garden right as other gardeners arrived, so we could tell them what we’d done. We also smiled/laughed.

Next order of business is more garden watch parties and potlucks and celebrations.

First occasion of celebration: This Tuesday (2 days!), I defend my thesis at 9 am. At 11 am, you’ll (hopefully) be able to call me Master Bollinger. If you want to buy me lunch or a drink or an ice cream cone or if you just want to talk to me or watch a movie or call to say “You’re the greatest/smartest/best!” or make a music video or play catch, hit me up. “Having a drink at the Pig” are as concrete as my plans have gotten.  I probably can’t work the community garden or the lovely connections I made in this blog into my thesis defense, but boy, if I could!