And when I say “attempting spinach gnocchi” I actually mean “succeeding in making spinach gnocchi”…just with some added difficulty and frantic running between the stove and the counter and making a last minute second main dish and cursing in the kitchen. A success…just a minor pitfall.

As I’ve mentioned a number of times, the garden was filled with greens mid-May. The chard, kale, and collards are still doing relatively well, but the spinach and lettuce have either bolted or will likely do so in the next week or so.

Rather than sauteeing the greens and putting them with quinoa or couscous or rice…or on a pizza…or in a quiche…all things I often do, I decided to use some of the spinach to try something new.  Inspired by the gnocchi I had at 715 for graduation, I chose potato-spinach gnocchi as that something new.

In addition to a dinner of gnocchi and a cake, my parents also bought me a lovely Kitchen Aid mixer for graduation. Making gnocchi would allow me to use the new mixer. I chose this recipe by Heidi Swanson, and without considering that it might be a good idea to practice the new recipe first, I invited four friends over for dinner.

Making gnocchi wasn’t as difficult as I had expected it to be. I cooked the potatoes, peeled them immediately (as Heidi Swanson recommended) and sort of burned my fingers. Then, I smashed them with a fork on a cutting board before adding the egg. I have a tendency to cut corners with recipes–to not measure the baking soda or to use the same bowl for multiple purposes–but this time, I followed it perfectly. I boiled the spinach and mixed everything together….actually, it said to mix it by hand, but I wanted to use the Kitchen Aid…so I followed the recipe almost perfectly.

The most time-consuming part came after the mixing: I had to roll out each individual piece of gnocchi on the cutting board and then shape it with a fork. I sat down for this. And listened to Wilco’sSummerteeth. And about an hour later, had two bowls filled to the brim with small, uncooked pieces of gnocchi.  With an hour left before my guests arrived, I ran over to Wheatfields to grab a baguette, leaving the gnocchi in its bowls on the counter.

There are two ways to cook gnocchi: 1) boil it until it floats to the top of the water and then put some kind of sauce on it 2) brown it in a skilled with some butter, garlic, onion, etc. I decided I would do both and started pulling pieces of gnocchi off the top of the piles I’d created in the bowls.

As I got deeper into the bowls, though, I realized that the pieces of gnocchi were no longer individual pieces, but had instead returned into a big ball of dough. Stacking them had caused them to lose their shape. 

At first, I tried to salvage the gnocchi dough, shaping it back into pieces of gnocchi and dropping it into the water or into the pan of oil. I stirred and pulled gnocchi from the pots and pans and then immediately shaped more. I tossed the salad. This is when the cursing began. There’s the scene where Robin Williams is frantically changing back and forth between Mrs. Doubtfire and himself, attempting to convince the social worker that he deserves custody of his children…that was me.

With thirty minutes until my guests arrived, I called them and asked for more time. After messing with the unshaped dough for a few more minutes, I accepted that there was no way I could reshape that much dough in enough time to cook it. I also know these friends, and I knew they would tell me not to stress out. So, instead of playing Mrs. Doubtfire, I quickly made a frittata to ensure that between that and the gnocchi and baguette and salad, no one would be hungry.

And we weren’t. The gnocchi that hadn’t lost its shape was quite good. Never layer pasta dough, though…especially in the summer when your kitchen is kind of warm. I’m not sure what I was thinking…maybe I wasn’t. Not wanting to be wasteful, I put the rest of the gnocchi dough in the freezer; I’m not sure when I’ll have the courage (or patience) to retry.

Writers need to catch readers’ attention. Additionally, as a nonfiction writer, I am compelled to tell the truth.

I assume that the title of the blog entry caught your attention–can you imagine me functioning without the community garden? The title is not only eye-catching, but also true. For a moment in time last week, I seriously believed that we may lose the garden.

Our story: We (the other community gardeners and I) received a bizarre email from a guy claiming he owned the land where the community garden is, and that the city threatened to take the land away from him. He said he didn’t want to do this, but that we needed to contact him within 24 hours so he could help. Also, the email was sent from a Kansas City business–a pawn shop.

I was confused. You’ll remember that two men who live in Kansas City own the land the community garden is on. You’ll also remember that last fall,  I met one of the men who owns the land. I thought they were both lawyers, so the fact that a pawn shop owner was contacting us was sketchy. The email was also super vague, most specifically in that it gave no reason for the city taking the garden away. I envisioned those scam phone calls from foreign countries asking for money or bank accounts or credit cards, though I wasn’t sure how they were going to scam us by threatening to get rid of the garden.

Despite my skepticism about the email’s validity, I imagined the rest of Lawrence summer sans garden. And then I stopped; I hated it.

Naturally, this email set off a chain of emails about what to do. Some thought it was a scam, some seemed legitimately worried, and others mocked pawn shop guy’s grammar (surprisingly, English teacher Kara was not one of those people).

Superhero Michael (no, for real, if you met him you’d agree) called the pawn shop.

The real story: Pawn shop guy is, in fact, co-owner of the land. Apparently, the City of Lawrence drove by the garden one day last month. We hadn’t mowed a tiny patch of grass between the sidewalk and the street. “Nevermind the undergrad neighborhoods filled with post-graduation and summer-celebration PBR cans and red Solo cups,” they must’ve said, “We’ve gotta get this community garden cleaned up.”So, they sent the owners’ lawyer a letter requesting that we mow the area.

If we didn’t mow the grass within a specified time frame, we would be fined. By the time the owner got the letter from his lawyer, the time frame was almost up (hence the 24-hour business). Apparently the man who owns the pawn shop is an older guy and not super great with email/etc, so he kind of freaked out (hence the vague, rushed email).

Superhero Michael biked to City Hall. They said it was no longer an issue. They’d gone by the garden the next week, and since it had been mowed (because we mow the grass), took it off “the list.” However, if we forget to mow again, we’ll be fined.

My analysis (rant): The city’s scolding/threat annoyed me. It’s The Man, man. We work tirelessly to restore and maintain an entire lot in Lawrence. And frankly, we do a pretty good job. It’s beautiful and produces a lot of food. People who live in the neighborhood often stop by and comment on the work we do. Yes, occasionally things get overgrown, but there are worse looking lots in Lawrence, lots that “deserve” to be scolded. If we were a sports team or a fraternity, it would be fine. *Wincing at my own blatant bias* I know that some of you will shake your heads like a parent/grandparent and say “Well, rules are rules,” but I don’t like this rule.

Aside from that debacle, things are going swimmingly in the garden. There’s a bit of summer-time planting to do. And lotsa weeding. And even more harvesting, cooking, eating, and giving food to friends.

The garden feels more manageable now than it did a few weeks ago, too, because we’ve spent some time cleaning things up, drying herbs and tea for later, re-mulching the pathways, and throwing things away that are done (mostly bolted spinach and lettuce).

Perhaps my most important plant related news is that I am in love with peas. IN LOVE. LOVE! It’s officially official. They are doing so well this year.

The offer still stands: if you’d like food, let me know. Those who have visited to pick food haven’t been disappointed. Support the rebellious, countercultural community gardeners. Down with The Man.Huzzah.