by Betty Harris
Ok, so you read that as ganging up ON the neighbors. Part of what the Littleton Garden Gang is doing feels like it was started by neighbors ganging up on one another because we get calls from Code Enforcement to help out someone who has been turned in by their neighbors for code violations relating to gardens, yards, bushes, trees, etc.
The Littleton Garden Gang has two origins but basically one purpose. Although there is no official membership the volunteers come from two sources. About half of the volunteers at some events are from a group called the Sunshine Boys because some of those folks have taken the Cool Gardening Class taught by Betty Harris and they have a particular interest in helping neighbors. The other half is made up of other attendees at that free class that focuses on learning ways to grow more plants, food, etc while using less water based on techniques from Brad Lancaster. (Google: rainwater harvesting Brad Lancaster to learn more.) Betty considers the class as a means of jump starting learners’ brains to different methods of gardening in Colorado with an emphasis on organic gardening and the Building a Food Forest ideas of Eric Toensmeier. Both these gentlemen, Lancaster and Toensmeier, have books out on the techniques they have learned and were instructors in 2015 at a nine-day class at Woodbine Ecology Center in Sedalia owned by Pavlos Stavropolis, another Littleton resident.
On any particular project the volunteer makeup can be more from one group or another but when they work together they are simply the Littleton Garden Gang. On July 7 twenty volunteers showed up at the O’Dell residence on W. Costilla Ave and started what turned out to be 3 different days of work. None of those were 8-hour days but two were 5-hour days. The O’Dell’s situation was such that the owner and his wife asked Betty Harris if she could get some people together to help them although they were embarrassed to ask for help. So a date and time was planned and the project surveyed by Dave Mitchell to decide what tools and kinds of work would be needed.
As a result of Dave’s survey the first group of 20 volunteers showed up and split into 2 groups to accomplish the goal of basically digging the family out of a yard that was overgrown and out of control with additional issues of logs of cottonwood that had been there some time waiting to be split. Ill health and trying to keep a business afloat had prevented the family from taking care of this themselves. About 6 men attacked the yellow jackets and the logs, moving the logs to the driveway. A monstrous pile then was left until Monday when a splitter could be rented. The remainder of the crew whacked and trimmed and pruned and chopped weeds and bushes and smaller trees into submission leaving piles of organic matter that was used as a base for later application of a massive amount of mulch.
On Monday, July 9 a crew of 12 showed up to split up into 2 groups again. One group included Jose Trujillo, former owner of Jose’s in downtown Littleton who at 80 seems to have as much or more stamina than folks about half his age. This group split all the wood, stacked a pile for the O’Dell’s inside their fence and a long pile outside the fence while the other group of volunteers finished up inside applying cardboard barriers and wood mulch to keep the weeds at bay for a few years. The balance of the split wood was picked up by members of the garden gang and then it was offered to the public on NextDoor.com. It was gone within a couple of days.
On the following Saturday another crew of 10 showed up to finish up the work. This group included a student from the gardening class and her husband and young daughter. When it was mentioned that we were so happy to meet the husband we were told that the daughter had told him that he really needed to come help do something for the community! So he and his daughter worked together on part of the project for about 3 hrs.
All this activity involving all these Littleton citizens is building a stronger community and these folks have a fun time working together and socializing. They also need to be fed and watered and this is covered by a community grant from the city. The grant is stretched as thin as possible to cover as many events as possible. It was expected that the O’Dell project might have required a roll off trash bin which can cost up to $350…but the group managed to pull this off for the price of a few lunches, bottled water and rental of a log splitter.
Since this particular large project another Littleton resident was identified by Code Enforcement. He is suffering from cancer and some of his neighbors complained because some of his trees were growing up and over the property next door.
Dave Mitchell took this project in hand and convinced Frank Atwood and John Watson to come over and start the process of getting this property back into line with city code. This involved removing some trees and some weeding and grass cutting. Posting about this project on NextDoor.com produced 3-4 new people that didn’t fit in either of the other groups but who wanted to help. One of these was Joni Achenbach who is a powerhouse when it comes to getting things done. We are proud to add her to the garden gang. Over about a week of part time work the area was cleaned up and Mark Barons was able to get some help from Public Works to work with Xcel to remove some trees that were too near the hot power line for our crews to deal with.
Code Enforcement provided a truck and two helpers on very short notice to haul away a mass of tree trimmings. We are very thankful for their help on this. Some neighbors expressed thanks for helping, some provided brooms, etc… some came and provided labor and one joined the garden gang and is going to water some new plants that have been planted around the mail box.
Those who want to learn and work with the group, take the class, help their neighbors and just have fun building a stronger community with a great friendly character are welcome to contact Betty Harris at 720.560.3806.