Weather: Warm, Sunny and Humid.
Today we, my two daughters and I, went to help an elderly friend with her garden. Ms. Ardis is 82 this year and lives in a one bedroom apartment with her cat. I met her a little over a decade ago when she was clearing out her three story row home of what ever belongings she could get, as it had been sold and the new owner was going to demolish it. It had been six months since her hip surgery and she couldn’t walk up the stairs anymore. The added bonus (sarcasm here) is that she is unable to drive due to a massive head injury when she was 8 weeks old. This injury has not stopped her from becoming a writer, an amateur historian ( with a particular interest in Medieval Romania/Russia), a brilliant calligrapher and a smart as a whip, sharp tongued woman. To be honest I had met her at a few SCA events that year, but it was no more than an interesting customer conversation each time. Another friend had notified me that there was a house of books that I could clear out. I arrived and saw Ms. Ardis there, with a backpack, moving things with her cane. She had until sundown to take what ever she could. Other friends had helped her, but her apartment was small, and she had already packed it full. Still there were a lot of things in the house that were from her father and other family members, and she couldn’t find them all.
Four hours, seven full car loads later the sun set. and the new owner shouted for us to leave. She shuffled out pushing things with her cane, and i came down the stirs filling two rusk-sacks with whatever I could grab as I passed. (had one on my back and one on my front.) Nearly fell down the stairs, I was so off balance. Ms. Ardis gave me her new address and got on the bus. I went home, and started to organize and categorize everything that I got our. The next day I showed up at her place with the list and asked which ones she wanted to keep. And then helped her organize her new apartment’s bookcases.
We have been friends ever since.
Anyway, so today we went to help her with her garden. She has a little pathway that the mowers tend to go as close to as they can. We have had to be creative with her planting so that they don’t destroy them. Most of her stuff is planted in upraised pots. She has 15 of them, and this is where she grows most of her food for the year. Her apartment has windows, but is at such an angle that she gets almost no natural light. , this means indoor planting is out.
. Ms. Ardis’ situation is a bit precarious. There is a local bus that she can take, and a personal shopping cart will help her with her balance, but the bus doesn’t go into her neighborhood, which means a 1 1/2 mile walk up hill to the main road. The stop that will take her towards the stores is on the opposite side of the road which is 8 lanes wide. The walk light gives you 2 minutes to cross. Healthy, physically able people have to sprint across it. Since the local grocery store closed down, it is now a three mile walk to the nearest store : a Dollar General which sells nothing fresh. The local grocery store is 5 miles past that. There is a free Elderly Ride Bus, but you have to request it two weeks in advance and they only take you one place, and you can only have three bags (no shopping cart). This means she either walks, takes cabs or relies on others.
As I have a truck, she can now get fertilizer and any large quantities she needs, so when it is gardening time, she “feeds the dragon” and off we go.
This time, she got spinach and lettuce, marigolds, Golden Pear tomatoes, baby bell peppers, cherry tomatoes and sunflower seeds. Along with a lot of deer repellent. The deer wander through her complex and tend to nosh on her garden. We have figured out that having sunflowers keeps them away. There is a particular type of seeds that is intended for people to eat the greens of the plant (before the flower blooms and the stalk grows) part of the microgreen eating. Due to weather last season she didn’t eat them and they over grew and the deer stayed away. So we are trying again.
We helped plant her crops and set her up. A quick survey of her area shows that the watercress is growing near by (I have been cleaning that area of trash all winter), that the raspberry bushes are starting to bloom and that the crab apple trees seem to be in good shape. This way her scrounging (or urban grazing) can be planned out. There are black walnut trees near her, but those are a pain to get the nuts out. There are also mulberry bushes, but the owners don’t want an elderly woman trying to pick the bushes clean. (Legal issues).
Since we are moving this fall to another state I am trying to find a CSA that will deliver to her monthly. So far I have not been having any luck. I am quite worried about her and her survival when I am gone.
If anyone has any ideas on how to help her, I would appreciate it.
She is on a limited budget, and is in decent health. Retirement homes are expensive and would not let her keep her cat.