Volunteering at Urban Roots

As mentioned earlier, Lauren and I volunteered at Urban Roots’ acre at the Helping Hands farm in East Austin, right under the take-off path of AUS.

We woke up around eight and headed out to East Austin. The acre is on the east side of the highway right near a bit of a heavy interchange, as such we passed it. A few miles later it seemed like we had gone too far, so we doubled back. We found the entry street and missed the second turn (agh); but, at last we found the right path and the acre.

We were greeted by some of the energetic youth interns and, after signing in and getting a name sticker, we were guided out to a section of the field headed by our crew boss, Vivian. Lauren and I were initially tasked to help trellis tomatoes. Trellis fabrication is pretty easy. You take a long spool of twine and tie it to an anchored metal post. You then weave the twine through the plants and then then pull it taut; do it backwards with a counter-weave and tie it off.

In so doing this you encourage tomatoes, a vine, and encourage them to hang or dangle off / over the supporting twine. Do this a few more times and viola, you have created a rope trellis. I was then paired up for some more trellising with one of the youth interns, Anthony and we had a great time discussing guitars and amps and we wove through the trellis. At the end the inter-row paths were clear of tomatoes and the plants were looking healthy.

After that we headed over to another row and did some pruning, removing dead branches and pest-destroyed tomatoes. It was sad to have to see animal-destroyed vegetation be be destroyed, but that is simply part of the game when it comes to an organically / sustainably run farm. Although as I tossed them aside I had to think that at least I knew that it wasn’t salmonella-laced. But all was not for waste, for a third row was ready for harvest so I and another volunteer, Rob, searched for stealth beauties ( buried at the bottom of the vine ), plucked winners, and tossed a few mushy losers aside.


I was thankful for my gen-yoo-wine, wide-brimmed, Salvadorean cowboy hat as a protection from the 90-degree sun and humidity. Oddly, though, it wasn’t completely debilitating. There was a nice breeze and as we wound up I felt a definitive sense of pride for having braved the Texas summer to produce great food that I don’t have to worry about feeding my loved ones. Lauren, freshly injected with TEXAS PRIDE ®, opined that the ability to withstand withering heat, while doing the same stuff that everyone else in the world does, but with that freaking burning ball of fury beating on you, gives you an extra inch of height and a hypodermic shot of badassitude-D. Although some people have a glandular disorder that turns an injection of badassitude-D into full-blown delusion.

And even now, ripening on my counter sit two delicious, organic tomatoes ready to go into a Lauren frittata.

I leave you with Guy Clark:

Ain’t nothin’ in the world that I like better
Than bacon & lettuce & homegrown tomatoes
Up in the mornin’ out in the garden
Get you a ripe one don’t get a hard one
Plant `em in the spring eat `em in the summer
All winter with out `em’s a culinary bummer
I forget all about the sweatin’ & diggin’
Everytime I go out & pick me a big one
Homegrown tomatoes homegrown tomatoes
What’d life be without homegrown tomatoes
Only two things that money can’t buy
That’s true love & homegrown tomatoes