Oakhurst Community Garden came into my life at a time when I needed it the most. When our first child was delivered stillborn this July after an uncomplicated pregnancy, I thought I might lose my mind in my grief. Some days it was all I could do to get out of bed to feed our dog. My husband urged me to find something to do with myself, and fortunately I had enough clarity to reach out to Daniel Ballard, a friend of ours and the gardener at the Oakhurst Community Garden, who encouraged me to start volunteering at the garden whenever I wanted.
At OCGP, I have learned firsthand the healing power of working in the outdoors. Within a few weeks I found myself looking forward to getting out of bed in the morning so that I could get to the garden, and I would come home in the evenings physically exhausted and excited to update my husband on our latest project. Volunteering at OCGP has also eased the passing of time; while I initially dreaded the change of seasons and felt that time was pulling me further away from my daughter, I now look forward to the changes and enjoy watching and helping the garden adapt.
I tell people now that OCGP was my saving grace. I’ve started working again, but I still volunteer at least weekly at the garden. It is one of those rare places where, each time I go, I can rest assured that I will discover something new that makes me stop and, even, smile.
When I learned that a new community garden space had started just across the street, I was so curious to find out how I might get involved. At the beginning, volunteering at Sugar Creek Garden was appealing because I could (1) learn about organic gardening, (2) get to know others in my community , and (3) spend more time enjoying the peacefulness that being in nature has always provided me.
Over the past year, my initial curiosity and hopefulness about Sugar Creek Garden has grown into a passion that is influencing my life in so many ways. It has been fun to watch the garden grow and to appreciate and tune in to its seasonal changes. When I walk into the garden, I feel like I’ve arrived in an oasis far away from and in vibrant contrast to the traffic choked workday drive that I’ve just completed. Tiny seedlings develop into towering okra plants. Bees, butterflies, caterpillars and other creatures visit to do their work. Summer’s gift of garden fresh red tomatoes slows to a stop, leaving a closing offering of green tomatoes for a batch of chow chow to enjoy when the garden sleeps.
The casual chats that happen amidst gardening activities provide enjoyable social connection with people in my community in the most significant way ever during the 15 years that I’ve lived in Decatur. I’ve applied the things I’ve learned at Sugar Creek to my own yard as well including replacing the front lawn with organic strawberries, watermelon, eggplant, lemongrass and lavender.
Finally, Sugar Creek Garden has sparked another project – Mushroom Cultivation! In August and November we inoculated oak logs with Shiitake mushroom spawn. Mushroom cultivation has been a tremendously interesting project and appears to be an under-developed activity in Decatur gardens. Hopefully, efforts at Sugar Creek Garden will lead to classes and materials to support the growth of DIY mushroom cultivation in Decatur. ..stay tuned!