Is That a Trowel in Your Pocket, or Are You Happy to See Me?
Several clean up days have already occurred here in York city, home of champion gardeners, and in surrounding communities. Isn’t this great? You are lucky to be living in and around York county where the opportunities are literally endless for being out there and getting in shape doing something as healthy, wonderful and frankly, important, as being a volunteer. York city and county is undergoing a renaissance of bold ideas and activity, a rebirth, literally block by block, and you are lucky enough to be a part of it at this crucial moment in time.
Mother Nature is currently schizophrenic and can’t commit to a specific Springtime mood yet, so instead of writing about putting in our fabulous bona fide garden plots, I’m going to write about what we can do as a community to access and prepare more places to plant and beautify. When warmer temperatures finally decide to settle in, York’s growing areas will be far better prepared then ever before. Our area will be one of those super shiny happy places to live in when we are done with it.
Volunteers are sexy, and no one looks better in their life as when they are helping out. This is the truth. Covered in healthy sweat, wearing grungy clothing and glowing with exertion, engaging mind, body and spirit in the common cause of taking charge and helping out, creates an undeniably attractive combination. Mentally, volunteering is a great approach for self and community improvement. Style-wise, wearing big gloves and sturdy jeans to pick up trash and debris makes you a fearless force of fashion to be reckoned with. Also, using a trowel to firmly gouge weeds out of hard soil and concrete and asphalt is a really effective method of getting rid of violent aggression. Pissed off about getting a parking ticket? Come work off your anger by removing a pile of weeds and junk. It’s a win-win. Curiously, this is a part of garden therapy that never seems to get mentioned. I find it very helpful and it keeps me from repeatedly kicking things, hard.
Grab that rake and tear the old bits of junk out of the low areas where winter’s wrath blew it. Live by a road where trash blows by? Searching for crushed bits of things that heavy snow pushed down into our fair earth? You won’t have to look far to find it. Then, dig it out by trowel or shovel or rake, and get rid of it. You don’t want to see that junk in your line of vision, and neither do your good neighbors, so lets be proactive about it and chuck it right into a garbage bag. You can do this yourself, or with a bunch of friends and neighbors. Many hands make light work. Make sure to drink water as you work, and tell some jokes. Keep ‘em clean, there are probably little ears about that look up to you now since you are an important member of your community, volunteering in it and looking after it. This applies to what is seen in your behavior, as well as what is reflected in your neighborhood. Remember this. It will get you far in life.
What happens after areas are picked clean of garbage? Does it remove its old personality? Of course it does. Now it’s ready to have an all-new, bright perky welcoming personality introduced into the neighborhood, and you can become a part of this. There is literally no better time to get involved than now. Digging a bottle out of some dirt? Ripping old boards out of a filth-filled stretch of land? Now jam a nice flower into that new hole. Any kind of flower at all. You are going to feel better about your community, and everything will look better BECAUSE of you.
There are places and groups to volunteer with that you may not have heard about, groups newly sprung up from communities you live in, or are close to. There are generally local social clubs and Veterans associations and religious groups and 4H clubs and student associations and all sorts of groups. If you can’t find one you like, start one. Form a group dedicated to Scottish Lovers of Pattern Design and mow your favorite tartan pattern into a local grassy area that’s been left untended for far too long. Blues Music Lovers for Blueberry patches comes to mind as a great idea. Jaundice Sufferers of America can plant endless Yellow daffodils throughout the city. Weed lovers can gather together to pull weeds,….. er, well, actually, I’m hoping they get together to actually PULL the weeds… you get the idea. I’m wondering that they may be unmotivated and lethargic, now that I think on it.
If you want to join groups that already exist, there are several new ones based right in York city that are ready and waiting for a special person like you. They gather together on the weekends when parking is free. How brilliant is that? Two particularly new garden groups to volunteer with throughout York City are the Royal Square Gardens, located in the newest Royal Square area, by King and Duke Streets, a short walking distance from the Historic Martin Library and the Yorktown Hotel. Look them up on Facebook. This is a gem of a garden, tucked away in an interior courtyard untouched for years, newly cleaned and proud, and it waits ready to be cultivated by loving hands into a vegetable garden. This particular space is dedicated to producing vegetables for the Healthy World Café, York’s newest restaurant that features locally grown delicious food at their latest location on 24 South George Street. They are open from 11 to 2 p.m. during the week, and if you have never eaten there you are cheating yourself of a great weekly dining experience. Get there, and treat yourself good.
The other new garden is the Hope Street Garden and Learning Lab, located at 446 W. Hope Avenue and Green Streets, right off of Princess Street. Massively beneficial clean ups have already occurred, and at this point its pure fun, putting in gardens and making beauty blossom in what had previously been a trash and weed filled part of our city. It’s literally an entire city block, and this remarkable space has unlimited potential as an environment to bring expert and novice gardeners of all ages together to make our fair city blossom. This garden is also on Facebook! Don’t miss out on this place, it’s open and spacious and full of promise. It’s refreshing to discover an area as large and open to gardening innovation as this home grown York project. It’s a confluence of several local school groups, and many eager young, and young-in-spirit hands have played a part in its success.
Why should you, or could you, volunteer? Because, plainly speaking, no one looks more intelligent or better fitted to their community as when they volunteer. You become an invaluable member of your community. You become invaluable because you are also unpaid and because you are enjoying time put in with highly commendable groups who cannot afford to pay you. You pay with your time, which you will never get back, and which is more valuable than cash. Money comes and goes, but commitment to community is lasting. You become linked with a network of like-minded individuals whose goal of improving and maintaining areas also improves your own self, through exercise, through friendships and discoveries and teaching. You probably know something about an aspect of growing or trimming or harvesting or canning or digging or something as obscure as land gradation and stormwater runoff control. These are important parts of being gardening volunteer and it’s very good to share. And if you don’t know a single thing about those activities, that is ok too. Learning about these things through other volunteers will never hurt you.
By participating in these volunteer opportunities, you get a real chance to enjoy yourself, get a workout and shed those winter pounds, meet stupendous people like yourself, and very different than yourself, all with the common desire to make York a remarkable place to be. Consider entertaining the mindset that cleaning up polluted areas is like a Twilight zone episode, where every bit of trash you discover is a great prize in a garbage-starved world and you are an intrepid explorer for National Geographic exploring new exotic lands. That’s different, don’t you think?
Most of the readers of this blog reside in York County, and like any home improvement project, clearing away debris can be as varied as traditional garbage that escaped waste management trucks. There is also plenty of purposely dumped wreckage left by irresponsible individuals. Let me be perfectly clear… people who have not yet realized that tossing their trash around in an area is NOT going to get them off the hook with karma, are particularly dense. It’s also quite possible to get arrested for being this “dense”. Observing eyes as well as cameras are in many parts of York city, and rural areas as well. If you are dumping any type of trash, consisting of recyclable materials or not, the odds are very good that somewhere there is an image of you doing it. And you WILL be recorded doing it, because people who illegally dump trash aren’t very bright. So don’t dump. Don’t be that guy, or that gal. Be the better person. Call waste management, or some of the other city and county groups that can help you. Some churches or groups will come and HELP you move away that lovely old, very heavy, somewhat funky couch/folding bed from your generous aunt that you don’t want anymore. Chances are high that the 70’s era furniture you can’t stand anymore, is some eager young hipsters dream couch. Save them from staying up half the night on Craig’s List or eBay or wherever it is, that today’s energetic members of society electronically seek out that exact item to complete their dream pad.
Look around our fair city. See those burned out buildings? Either specialize in a Ghost hunters episode, or fix them up, or knock them down, and put in a garden. See that big hole in the ground? Pop in a flowering bush. Better yet, pack a bunch of flowers in there and add color and scent to an area and crow about it to your neighbors about what an intrepid and fearless gardener you are. Next to the new garden you put in, build a better building, one that brings in revenue and provides jobs and adds to the tax base and brightens its neighborhood with green spaces and flowers and trees. All this happens when you volunteer. You combine the hand and the eye and the brain and discover not just ways to remove garbage and blight, you generate ideas and conversations and overall, better health for the land, the community, and yourself.
Next Blog- Go Green in the City! Why Strawbale gardens will save the world.