The Foreclosure Garden Story

This blog is about gardening on a foreclosed property. Posts are mainly about the gardens progress with the occasional post about foreclosures.
To get up to speed on the project go to the first few posts which tell the story of the property and how the garden came into being.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

appearance of the mow and blow guys

Neighbor Mike stopped by my house early this morning after a jog. I was standing outside in my pajamas examining a volunteer pumpkin growing in a less than convenient spot.
Mow and Blow guys are in front of the foreclosure garden.
Oh oh.
I stepped out onto the street and peered down. There were others down the block doing the same.
We all watched as a father and son team pulled out the weed-wacker and went to work on the weeds on the sidewalk. They then walked along the trash strewn driveway leaving the garden untouched.
They soon reappeared from the back of the house with a couple of full trash bags that they loaded in their truck and drove away. I walked down the street to take a look. The drive was clear of trash. the garden was okay.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Foreclosure Garden Pumpkin Soup

I made a meal from the first two small sugar pumpkins grown in the foreclosure garden from a recipe in "Vegetable Soups from the Kitchen of Deborah Madison." This soup is called Fundamental Squash Soup with Sage. It's so great to cook with homegrown ingredients, especially now that I'm growing herbs. I think the value of using the produce while fresh cuts down on my usual procrastination around cooking. I am not, like so many urban gardeners, a foodie nor do I have a history of enjoying cooking. Cooking is work and it takes time and attention I like to garden. My husband, on the other hand, is an excellent cook. He cooks with calm and patience. I tend to not think about food until I'm really really hungry, which is when calm and patience are in short supply.Hence I snack and then lose interest in cooking a meal. But preparing something homegrown pricks my attention. I am curious to see if what I grew is tasty, what it looks like on the inside and how I did as a gardener.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Elizabeth Warren on why the making homes affordable plan is flawed

The Huffington Post has a great clip of Elizabeth Warren grilling Timothy Geithner on the Obama plan Making Homes Affordable. Very satisfying to know someone's paying attention.
thank you Elizabeth Warren!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Foreclosure Gardening Legalese

Sec. 602. .... every person who willfully
commits a trespass by any of the following acts is guilty of a
(1)(d) Digging, taking, or carrying away from any lot situated within
the limits of any incorporated city, without the license of the
owner or legal occupant, any earth, soil, or stone.
(2) In order for there to be a violation of this subdivision, the
trespass signs under paragraph (1) must be displayed at intervals not
less than three per mile along all exterior boundaries and at all
roads and trails entering the land.
(l) Entering any lands under cultivation or enclosed by fence,
belonging to, or occupied by, another, or entering upon uncultivated
or unenclosed lands where signs forbidding trespass are displayed at
intervals not less than three to the mile along all exterior
boundaries ... without the written permission of the owner of the land, the owner's agent or of
the person in lawful possession, and
(1) Refusing or failing to leave the lands immediately upon being
requested by the owner of the land, the owner's agent or by the
person in lawful possession to leave the lands, or
(2) Tearing down, mutilating, or destroying any sign, signboard,
or notice forbidding trespass or hunting on the lands, or
(3) Removing, injuring, unlocking, or tampering with any lock on
any gate on or leading into the lands, or
(o) Refusing or failing to leave land, real property, or
structures belonging to or lawfully occupied by another and not open
to the general public, upon being requested to leave by (1) a peace
officer at the request of the owner, the owner's agent, or the person
in lawful possession, and upon being informed by the peace officer
that he or she is acting at the request of the owner, the owner's
agent, or the person in lawful possession, or (2) the owner, the
owner's agent, or the person in lawful possession.
In case you want to start your own Foreclosure garden, a friend did some research and came up with the following laws:
602.8. (a) Any person who without the written permission of the
landowner, the owner's agent, or the person in lawful possession of
the land, willfully enters any lands under cultivation or enclosed by
fence, belonging to, or occupied by, another, or who willfully
enters upon uncultivated or unenclosed lands where signs forbidding
trespass are displayed at intervals not less than three to the mile
along all exterior boundaries and at all roads and trails entering
the lands, is guilty of a public offense.
(b) Any person convicted of a violation of subdivision (a) shall
be punished as follows:
(1) A first offense is an infraction punishable by a fine of
seventy-five dollars ($75

powdery mildew

I noticed some powdery mildew developing on the massive pumpkin when I walked by yesterday. Last year this stuff invaded my squash crop and by the time I decided to act it was too late. This year I was prepared and today I went out armed with a spray bottle of milk. I sprayed all the leaves that had any spots on them. I have never tried this technique but it was advocated as the solution by the master gardener course I took. I will see how it works. I actually only had half and half which I cut with water. Usually milk is also cut with water by half according to my text book. I haven't been watering the garden much in the past two weeks. I showed Gonzalo where I hide the wrench and have noted that someone is watering. It could also be Javier. But today it was bone dry so I'll water it tomorrow morning. I harvested some of the cucumbers. There were lots and people are taking them. Again, maybe G or J or S or maybe others. S seems to think he needs to defend the garden against thieves but I've been trying to convince him that if people take the vegetables that means they really need it or really want it and that's a good thing. After all its not mine, really. I'm not begrudging anyone a cucumber. Secretly I'm flattered. Today I took three big cucumbers home. I twist tied the vines to the fence in hopes that the vines will cover the ugly chain link.

I met a neighbor named N stopped by to chat. She wanted to know if I was buying the house. I said no and told her it is a foreclosure. I asked her if she remembered the people who were displaced during the buying and selling frenzy but she didn't. I'm curious about the last tenants, who were they and where they moved to- and what was their inducement to move. Had they been paid the proper amount to leave or were they told the new owner would be moving in. She didn't remember who lived there however she did remember what went on at what is now my house. She had worked to get the store closed down for a long time. It was a big gang hangout and sold alcohol to minors. She was curious why I was gardening on at the foreclosure but said she really liked it now since it wasn't filled with trash and weeds. I told her that technically it was a misdemeanor and I could be fined 75. if the bank found out and complained and i figured it was worth the risk.
I harvested more but these were all that were left by the time I got home.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Chase owns BP, makes tons of money this month, and scams the little guy

Making homes affordable Chase Scam:
Making Home Affordable is a government program that, if approved by the government, a homeowner can then apply to their mortgage holder to have the monthly payments of their mortgage lowered to 31% of their income. The homeowner still owes the same amount, but the amount paid back per month is income sensitive.
But I suspect folks over at Chase have been reading a lot of Kafka lately and they’ve been inspired to new heights of brilliance in order to escape ever having to actually grant an MHA modification. They simply construct ways to lose paperwork. It’s so elegant in its simplicity yet its baffled and then destroyed thousands of people’s lives who were diligently trying to provide the required papers.
These people are caught in a terrible loop of Chase "losing Documentation" and making people continually re-send in forms. FOR YEARS. We even had a mortgage specialist at a Chase bank branch check all of our paperwork and fax them to the appropriate place only to have them claim they didn't receive all the required information.
One gorgeous example of the devious cleverness of Chase is a scam based on their own bank statement paperwork. Please admire its Kafka-esque brilliance.
On Chase bank statements the last page always reads "left intentionally blank" but they do not number this last page. For example, a Chase account may have 6 pages and all the pages say, i.e., 1 of 6, 2 of 6, et cetera, but page 6, the blank one, is not numbered 6 of 6. We have been continually turned down for an MHA because we are not sending them, Chase- holder of our mortgage and the bank where we have our accounts- complete bank statements even though we do send them that 6th page. Since it doesn't say 6 of 6 they claim our application isn't complete and make us start all over from the very beginning. We’re only going on Month 7 in the Chase Paper chase. Evidently that's nothing, most people who have tried have been trying for twice this long. Many, many people have already lost their homes because of this scam.
There are some websites devoted to this issue with Chase bank. Speculation is that they string people along who believe they might actually receive a modification so that they continue to pay a little longer before the inevitable foreclosure.
the websight Propublica is doing a great job tracking this issue.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

6/9/10 the first vegetables!

The first vegetable: a japanese trellis cucumber!!! (I think...) I don't have a stellar memory nor good habits when it comes to labelling what I grow. But I'm so excited!

There's a lot of them!
Might make it to the height of an elephants eye by the fourth of July. But are there enough plants to get all the corn pollinated? The kernels that Gonzalo donated were purplish and the bean seeds were reddish. That's all I know.

Another mystery vegetable:I had this growing in a pot at my house. I had thrown some seeds in a while back and lost track. I think it is a pumpkin. Last year I grew mini sugar pumpkins so I am guessing its a relation.
Not really sure if the house looks any better from a distance but passersby often smile and comment that the plants look beautiful. I guess i could have arranged them differently. I don't know much about garden design so I kept it simple. We'll see how it works out in the next few months.

5/19/10 Crime and Gardening

Up til now I had been carting water in 5 gallon buckets from my house on a little cart. I kept thinking about just how well all the weeds had been doing and about how amazing the soil seemed to be, moist light, and with lots of earthworms. I wondered if there was a water leak. But there wasn't supposed to be any water on the site. It was supposed to have been shut off... I eyed the spigot in the yard dubiously, then ran home for a wrench...
And we had water! This would make things much easier but much less ethically clear. If I used the water from the house I would be stealing. Hmmmm... I'd be doing the wrong thing for the right reason.
Already news of the foreclosure garden had gotten some heat. I had posted an innocent little blog write-up about the project on my husbands blog The hairy prone companion which I then forwarded to my master gardeners yahoo group. It seemed to really anger some folks (and this was before I was Stealing water!) The fact that I was trespassing seemed to make some believe I would destroy the good name of the group, and of gardening. I had no right. Then came my defenders, equally horrified but at the naysayers. A small battle ensued. I got a lot of mail. All mention of foreclosure gardening was removed from the sight. I had carefully explained about the neighborhood, the gangs, the shootings and the squatters. But to no avail. Now I was about to start stealing to add to my gardening crimes.
I wrenched the spigot open and smiled at all that beautiful water. I'll just keep track of what I use and pay for it if "they" want me to.
Issue resolved. A slippery slope? Maybe. But sometimes its best not to try for saintliness. I am a water thief. Things could be worse.

4/30/10 the first plants

The first plants...
all got eaten by slugs and snails. Actually, not all of them. I planted a row of sunflowers along the row closest to the house. they all got eaten and all the cucumbers. So out with the sluggo and wait a few days before replanting.

And then One Day in April

I walked by the foreclosed house that had been the sight of so much trouble in the past few years. I walked up the stairs and opened the unlocked gate and I just started pulling out all the weeds. Hours went by. I couldn't stop. Neighbors walked by. Many asked me: "You buy this place?" and I should my head, "Nope" and I smiled a guilty smile and they laughed.
There had been quite a bit of rainfall and the weeds came out easily, revealing a really nice soil I was pretty amazed. We have clay, heavy heavy clay, in these parts. But this stuff had some loam to it, and earthworms! What was expected to be the back breaking work of breaking up clay pan was cake.

Gonzalo walked by and offered to help. I worked with a garden fork while he loosened the soil and created rows wit the pick axe. The man has technique. He then went to his house to get seeds he had saved from his garden in south central.

Sal saw me pulling up weeds. He was taking care of his nephew, a little boy who enjoyed giving the finger to passersby and shrieking, often. Now I am no parent, I like kids but prefer to play a peripheral role in their lives. The kid came over and wanted to work so we gave him a patch of ground and he battled the monster Bermuda grass and labored at removing the big heavy rocks.
He didn't shriek once.

The Smallest Community Garden in LA

The smallest community garden
One day in early April I came out of my driveway to find one of my neighbors, Gonzalo, leaning over the planter in front of my house. He was surreptitiously dropping seeds into the planter I hadn't gotten around to planting. "You know if you plant it it's yours" I hollered out to him. He laughed and hollered back. Okay! Why not seed some of the other planters? Okay! But then they are yours. Gonzalo considered for a moment. Maybe Javier and Sal also. Sounds good.
Soon after that corn and beans started appearing. I had planted some tomatoes in the the parkway planter and soon squashes that Gonzalo had planted started coming up along with volunteer sunflowers from last years planting. Sal and Javier live next door. Sal considers himself the Mayor of the neighborhood. He told us when we first moved in that if we had any problems with anyone to talk to him first. He'd sort it out. And while having someone stand sentinel most of the day has its benefits it also means on occasion police will run through my back yard pistols out. These days he seems mostly to take care of the grandchildren, violet and Jasmine. Javier lives on the second floor of the two story apartment building next door. He lives with his wife Rosa. He has two sons. One of them is at the police academy and the other at UC Riverside. I heard he had a daughter but she died of Leukemia. He has Leukemia as well. He used to keep birds on his balcony but their was trouble with his landlord so he no longer has any. I see Javier everyday. When I am working in my backyard he and his family wave and we chat over the wall, about the chickens and plants.
Gonzalo lives on the next block down towards the highway. He lives in a building where Javier used to live. Gonzalo is at war with his landlord. Evidently, part of the ceiling fell in and on top of Gonzalo, breaking some ribs and giving him a concussion. the landlord said he had no insurance so he couldn't pay Gonzalo any money. Gonzalo has been trying to get him to pay. He finally offered him 2500 but Gonzalo felt it wasn't enough. I think he should have taken the money but he said no.
Gonzalo used to have a farm at south central and he is interviewed in the documentary "The Garden." I think that whole situation really broke his spirit. He had a beautiful big garden there. Now he had the little box in front of my house.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

local graffiti

gang graffiti
One night I came home and a bunch of 11 year olds were tagging my wall. A friend was dropping me off, a friend who is terrified of my neighborhood. I jumped out of the car and walked up to the kids. Umm you guys? I faltered. Um do you think you could um not do that um here....
They stopped and looked at me. They were incredibly clean cut little Latino kids. One had glasses and a polo shirt on. They were spraying my wall with there arm extended straight up for maximum height (about my eye level) These kids, were they even eleven? A very very very large man approached in a very large very white over sized t-shirt. May i help you ma'am? My names grande. this is my crew." I looked up at the mountain of a kid. Well I stuttered. Its just that I live here and I'm an artist and I really have nothing against graffiti but umm this just well um.. I stuttered and faltered out an embarrassment of excuses while trying to remain uh OK hip I guess. I still cringe. Grande Smiled. Sure ma'am. We'll paint over it. Oh thanks okay. well. Have a good night. um grande. Nice to meet you. Maybe they could get other color spray paint besides just the black... goodnight.
My poor Friend sat rigid in her car looking at me horrified. I tapped on her window and she rolled it down a notch. thanks for the ride. Are you insane? they could have sprayed you in the face they do that. There was just a big article about it. Oh. I found myself apologising.
When I woke the next morning I went outside. The wall had been painted over.
No locks were put on the gates and there were no "no trespassing signs" put up by the last crew or any of the previous crews that were sent out in response to numerous health code violations phoned in by concerned neighbors.