Oranges, Beavers and Gardens Oh My!

Once a month the Nola YAVs have a community service day. We have done lots of different things, like working in Jess's garden, or going to Lafayette to hand out Christmas baskets. Last Saturday we went down to the bayou to spend time with some of the elderly church members of Bayou Blue Presbyterian Church. For the morning Jess, Alyssa, Anna Leigh and I went to the Beavers. Irene Beaver in particular gave us all a run for our money. Not only is she incredibly gracious, she is a spit fire who says what she's thinking, when she's thinking it. For example, her husband asked her to get him a bottle of water from the house. Her response? "You have two feet." While we were at the Beavers we were technically helping them building a small house in the backyard that they will eventually move into. Their grandson and his family are moving into the big house, so Mr. and Mrs. Beaver are moving into the small house in the back.

Anna Leigh got to use her construction skills. See, she's using them right there ^

Also, right here. She's a rock star with a nail gun. 

 While Anna Leigh was doing some work, the rest of us occasionally handed things off. Jess passed some insulation at some point.

Alyssa worked really hard posing with the ladder. It was very challenging, she
 broke out in a sweat just getting her arm up there.

Again, hard working Anna Leigh, measuring or something. I don't know, I'm not very handy. I just take pictures.

This is Mrs. Beaver, Jess and I had the pleasure of talking to her all morning. Like I said, she's a total spit fire and I am so glad I got to visit with her all morning.

At some point Alyssa took over as photographer.

After spending the morning with the Beaver, Alyssa, Hannah, Sydney and I went over to visit with another homeboundish member of the Bayou Blue community, Shirley. Shirley is an awesome woman who is confined to a wheelchair. She also has a small citrus grove so we were there to help her glean the dead fruit. 

This gecko let me get verrrrrry close. He was torn between basking in the sun and being afraid of a big human hand with a phone attached to it. 

Shirley was out in the grove with us, teaching us how to tell the difference between a dead fruit that needed to be trashed and a live fruit that was good for eating. We did a lot of eating while we worked. The weather was perfect so we gleaned at a leisurely pace and spent a lot of time talking with Shirley.

Selfie alert! Yes, I took a selfie, BUT LOOK HOW SUNNY AND WARM IT IS! Seriously, so wonderful.

Here is a picture of some of the trees in the grove. Just about every tree had a different variation of citrus fruit. This tree up here had already been harvested, so those were all the ones that needed to be gleaned. That's a lot of fruit!

This is Shirley's property. The trees at the back are the ones we spent the most time on, but the property extends even further into an open space of land. Shirley told us that it used to be filled with citrus, but the winter after her husband died there was a terrible freeze that killed most of the trees. She claims it was her husbands way of helping her out, since she would never be able to keep up with all of those trees on her own.

Post gleaning we took some of the fruit we collected and made fresh OJ. The different fruit made different flavored OJ, so we got to try a couple of different things. 

Hannah, rocking the juicer.

I'm happy because I got to make delicious OJ, and we made enough to leave Shirley with plenty to drink. 

It was a great day. Not only did we get to drink yummy OJ, I got to literally lay on the ground outside and bask in the sun, just like my gecko friend, we also got to make some new friends with people down in the bayou. Oh! I taught myself how to juggle with some of the dead fruit, AND I got this awesome beaver keychain for Irene Beaver. The only thing that could top a day of wonderful community building and service would be...

Thats right folks, got to see the Brassaholics down at Maison on Frenchmen. Not only do the Brassaholics play their original music, they also play covers of pop music. For some reason it's not playing the clip, BUT, this was their cover of Lorde's "Royals". Seriously, cherry on top of a great day.

I've decided to go ahead and include a couple of pictures from my other adventures the past few weeks. For MLK Day, Jess, Crawford and I got together and planned a service day for the youth of presbytery of South Louisiana. Jess came and taught the high school Sunday school for the two weeks leading up to the service project, which was in her garden. Because Jess is a rockstar and super knowledgeable, she showed the youth how Food Justice lines up with the Civil Rights movement. Basically the poorer neighborhoods in the New Orleans parish are also, statistically made up of a majority of black people. These neighborhoods are also seriously effected by food desserts (food desert- a place without a grocery store within walking distance, this is a very basic definition but it will do for now). It is much easier for people to buy fast food or food from a gas station than it is for them to buy fresh produce, which in turns effects their health. It is very interesting and I can't really do the whole thing justice, but go check out Jess's Blog to learn more about what she's doing this year as a YAV. And I bet if you're really interested in how to get involved, she is a great resource to turn to.

So, with all of that in mind, the youth came and helped Jess in the community garden she works for. Check out the pics!

A part of the project was to cover the ground in mulch, one to help beautify the garden, but also to help lower the temperatures during the summer. The asphalt that the beds are built on top of reflects tons of heat which can cause some serious damage to the delicate little seedlings that are trying to grow.

Jess gave the kids a tour of the garden, telling them about composting as well as the rainwater harvesting system at the garden.

Things are a going here in New Orleans. I certainly have my plate full with all of my current commitments.I'm heading back to Dallas this weekend, this will make my 7th year at SHYC and I can't wait to meet some of the high schoolers in Grace Presbytery. I should have a few totally finished ceramics pieces that I can show ya'll within the next two weeks also, Project Homecoming's Gala is February 8th. Here's the link… Project Homecoming Gala: Our Key Event Come visit me in New Orleans and support the awesome non-profit that I work for. This gala has been a large part of my job pretty much since I started in September and I would love for it to be a grand success.

Also, for giggles, Alexander sent me this picture from his visit in December. It's Joseph, Mary, FratStar and the baby Jesus. 


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