This morning Loving Garland Green donated fifty pounds of produce and canned goods to the Good Samaritans of Garland.  If we all share, even a little, we can ease the pain of hunger. Our Garland Community Garden has the somewhat un-chic messy look of a mid-fall garden in North Texas as the leaves are beginning to fall but it is still producing.  Our produce today included 8 one-quart bags of kale; 3 one-quart bags of green beans; 6 one-quart bags of various peppers; 3 one-quart bags of okra; 1 one-quart bag of carrots; 2 one-quart bags of basil; 1 one-gallon bag of spinach and chard.

Easing the pain of hunger for the homeless by donating even a little food on a weekly basis is helpful if you can afford it.  But there are other things we can do to ease the pain of the homeless.  One thing that just occurred to me today is that non-profit groups can make an effort to be more inclusive by specifically inviting the homeless to their events.  We often forget that the homeless are as much a part of our community as home owners and those who can still afford to support their landlord’s investments. For the homeless, the pain of being shunned and shut out by the community is no doubt almost as painful as hunger.

Thinking about what I could do as an individual and as the current president of Loving Garland Green, I decided that at least for the moment I could thank Pam and her team of volunteers for what they do and let them know what we care about them and their clients as well.

So, I wrote a note to them to thank them for the picnic table and for their contributions to our community.


I also left a reminder for them of our next Garland Community Garden event which is coming up this Sunday, October 24. 1PM to 3PM.  I added “homeless are welcome”.  [Like Hamlet, I debated the merits with myself--going back and forth on whether to add this note.  On the one hand the argument could be made that the note calls attend to the homeless being treated as a separate group from our community and the fact that they are so often excluded from everything community but charity and on the other hand, this is actually true so they might just assume they are not welcome.]  I’ve decided that at least for the time being it is best to be clear and make the extra effort to communicate the homeless are welcome.





Sweet Potato Harvest


Luffa Shucking


Volunteers and clients at Good Samaritans of Garland helped us load the new addition for the Garden.

Today Charlie and I picked up a picnic table donated to the garden by the Good Samaritans of Garland and unloaded it at the garden.

Like most food banks across the Good Sam’s have really been taxed to the max.  The need for food has increased 600%.  Insane, isn’t it?   And the need continues to be pressing.


ABOUT THE TURQUOISE TABLE--the table that started a movement.

Kristin Schell of Austin wanted to connect with her neighbors and build friendships, so she put an ordinary picnic table in her front yard, painted it turquoise, and began inviting friends and neighbors to join her.  

Like many movements, the Turquoise Table movement had a serendipitous beginning. Kristin was planning an outdoor party and ordered an inexpensive picnic table from Lowe’s. The delivery guy unloaded it on her front lawn and asked her where she wanted it.  On a whim she kept in in the front yard. She slapped a can of turquoise paint on it and was soon was meeting many more of her neighbors. People are always curious and ask me, ‘Why do you have a turquoise table in your front yard?’ I tell them, ‘To meet people like you…’ And they just open up and sit down.”

It’s a throwback to another time of front porch sitting and conversations with people passing. “There’s something magical that happens when we take time to sit down face-to-face for conversation,” she said. “We all long for a place to belong, to connect in authentic and meaningful ways with one another.”  Turquoise Tables have become a movement. They are now registered in all 50 states.



While Kristin was having her front yard experience in 2013, I was also having mine about  213 miles to the north. I decided to dig up my lawn and plant a garden in my front yard. There is far too much shade from the trees in my back yard to grow anything. After about the third day of digging, people driving and walking by began to stop and ask questions.  It was amazing. I had lived there for 5 years and often was in my front yard--getting mail, mowing my lawn and trimming the shrubs.  No one had ever stopped once to chat.

Digging up one’s front yard lawn in the USA is far outside the world of status quo.  Front lawns are the most grown crop in the U.S. and you  can’t even eat them. Their primary purpose is cosmetic. The state of a homeowner’s lawn is important in relation to the owner’s status. They’re viewed as an indicator of socio-economic character, which translates into property- and resale values. Thus, a properly maintained lawn tells others you are a good neighbor. So, what are we to think of a person who digs up their front lawn or dares to put a turquoise picnic table on it?

Digging up one’s front yard and replacing it with an orchard and vegetable garden is as alien to Americans as a turquoise table on one’s front lawn. No wonder Kristin and I got visitors. People are curious.  Picnic tables belong in the back yard, not the front yard.  Gardens belong in the back yard, not the front yard.

Both Kristin and I were violating unspoken laws of the front lawn:  You keep it fertilized and mowed. You don’t put lawn furniture on it, and you certainly don’t dig it up.  Unlike Kristin, I was not trying to attract people, and yet they came anyway.  Before the end of the first week people walking by stopped to chat and ask me what I was doing. And during that first week a few people driving by in their cars stopped and got out to chat with me.

Of course, the main topic of our conversations was gardening. After about two weeks, I began keeping track of how many stopped.  By the time I finished near the end of May, 122  people had stopped to talk during that time.  It was also from these conversations that a core group was formed and we ended up establishing a Community Garden here in Garland on April 24, 2014.


Somehow it seems fitting that the serendipitous journey of two women, living 213 miles apart who decided to repurpose their front yards in 2013 should be united by a turquoise picnic table. It was Pam Swendig, Executive Director of Good Samaritans of Garland  who tied the whole experience together. Pam is in charge of the operations of a non-profit food distribution service in Garland.  The Good Samaritans of Garland feed the homeless and the hungry in our community.  They operate out of an old refurbished residential home near downtown. We give several hundred pounds of food from our garden and pantries to Good Sam’s every year.

A while back, Pam decided to put a lot of turquoise picnic tables around the side of their facility for people to sit in the shade--particularly the homeless who have nowhere to go.  She may be hoping that these turquoise tables, like the one in the yard of Kristin Schell of Austin would attract people of the neighborhood walking by to stop and chat with the homeless.  I don’t know.  I do know that when people stop and take the time to actually talk with one another, magical things happen.

I’m thrilled that we now have one of these lovely tables in our garden. Thank you, Pam!  And I thank all the volunteers at the Good Samaritans of Garland for all the wonderful and selfless work that you do.  I fully expect the turquoise table you gave us to bring even more magic to our Garland Community Garden.





Yes, It is official!  I am an okra fanatic.  We have 40 okra plants at the Garland Community Garden and I planted 25 of them.  Here are some facts about Okra in Texas:

1.  Even though the onion is our state vegetable, if I were queen, I would assign that honor to Okra for many reasons, not the least of which is because okra is far more nutritious than the onion.  But onions clearly make more money than Okra.  According to Aggie horticulture, ONIONS are Texas' leading vegetable crop. Onion sales bring the state between $70 and $100 million per year and the onion industry has an overall impact of about $350 million per year on the Texas economy. Most of the sweet yellow onions, which people all over the world enjoy because you can "eat them like an apple", can trace their origin to the Lone Star state.

However if nutrition and not profit are to be the guidelines, Okra wins hands down and it’s much easier to grow than onions or tomatoes.

2.  Every part of the Okra plant is edible--the leaves, flowers and the pods of the Okra plant. If you want to derive full nutritional value from almost any vegetable, eat it raw.  Now picture this at your next Texas barbecue:  You serve them a green salad made with okra leaves, chopped okra pods and garnished with okra flowers.


3.  Okra can be eaten raw, fried, or boiled.  It can easily be preserved by slicing and freezing.

Admittedly, getting a Texan to eat a raw okra pod might have a difficulty level approaching that of trying to get a Baptist to genuflect but it can be done as I’m living proof that a real Texan can be convinced to eat a raw okra pod.  I did and they are delicious--crunchy and good.  I also tried an okra leaf  today and they are at least as tasty as lettuce.  I have yet to devour a blossom but that adventure will come soon.  There is just something about eating a flower that seems dangerously close to being a cannibal.


4. Okra  produces well and even thrives in poor soil and even under drought conditions.  You don’t have to baby it.  You don’t need a vegetable garden to grow it. You can grow it in 5-gallon pots.  It’s OK if you forget to water it for days in a row.  It’s OK if you forget to cut it for a few days as you can dry out the too-large-to-eat fibrous pods and paint them for Christmas ornaments.  Okra is the most forgiving vegetable that I know.




Carl Hunt’s weekly compost donation is responsible for three plants and about 30 butternut squashes this spring and early summer.  And, seeds from one of the 3o squashes has this fall produced 36 plants that may in turn produce 360 butternut squashes in our fall garden at the Garland Community Garden


Seeds Are the Basic Building Block for all Life and the Garden is the best place to learn and appreciate their value. 

What we do matters very much and our actions, like planted seeds, often grow larger than we may ever realize.  Sometimes, however, we are lucky enough to see the influence of another and tell them of our appreciation.  Today was such a day for me.

Carl Hunt has been coming down to the Garland Community once a week for at least the past three years to bring his weekly spent vegetables and coffee grounds for our compost.  It’s a  small amount.  Most would not bother. 

Then one day last spring several of us noticed what we thought was a pumpkin vine growing out of the compost box where Carl deposits his compost.  Several of us took the sprouts and transplanted them elsewhere in the garden.  I believe there were three vines in all, but I kept track of one of the vine’s produce.  From that one vine I counted 10 butternut squashes.  There may have been more, but there were at least 10 from that one vine.

During the first week in September, I planted some seeds from one of these squashes from that vine.  Thirty-six plants germinated.  I have transplanted 10 of these to various beds in the garden and will thin out about 10 more from the 26 remaining.  If all 36 plants live and produce 10 squashes each, that will be a total of 360 squashes from the seed of one squash that originated from Carl’s compost.

Today I just happened to be in the garden watering when Carl came down with the weekly compost from his kitchen.  I asked him if he ate butternut squash and thus brought the rinds and seeds with his compost to the garden. He told me that indeed he often purchased butternut squash from Whole Foods and brought their remains to the garden.

I told him the Butternut Squash story;  His compost has literally given our garden 30 butternut squashes and now 36 butternut squash plants that have the very real potential of yielding 360 more butternut squashes. 



Butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata), known in Australia and New Zealand as butternut pumpkin or gramma, is a type of pumpkin or winter squash that grows on a vine. It has a sweet, nutty taste similar to that of a pumpkin. It has tan-yellow skin and orange fleshy pulp with a compartment of seeds in the blossom end. When ripe, it turns increasingly deep orange, and becomes sweeter and richer.

Yes, seeds and people are powerful forces! Multiply 360 squashes times 2 cups  (average yield from one squash) and you get 720 servings of the following nutrition:

One cup = 82 calories; 22 grams of carbs; 2 grams protein; 457% daily requirement for Vitamin A [Vitamin A is essential for regulating cell growth, eye health, bone health, and immune function]; 52% daily requirement for Vitamin C.