Photo courtesy of Sustainable Ballard from the 2015 Edible Garden Tour

At Large In Ballard: Big Weekend

What was I thinking? I’m sure that is going through a lot of minds in the Ballard households that have agreed to open their gardens and homes to the ticket-buying public over the course of the June 25-26 weekend.

Sustainable Ballard’s 8th Edible Garden Tour on Saturday, June 25 is completely separate from the Ballard Historical Society’s Classic Home Tour on Sunday, June 26th but it makes for a big weekend of opening private spaces to the public. At least 20 households are likely exhausted, resigned or excited, depending on whether they want their garden or home to appear as if it’s always ready for a photo shoot (or normal).

To me it sounds better to purchase a ticket from either commendable local organization than to be on the tour map. Luckily there’s yet another event on Sunday, June 26, that will allow all the hosts, docents and visitors to recover, the Taste of Sunset Hill from 4-6 p.m. at the Sunset Hill Community Clubhouse, free for members, $10 for others.

Saturday’s Edible Garden tour will feature 12 home gardens in the walking vicinity of Ballard Community Center at 6020 28th NW, from 10-4 p.m. The $10 entry fee includes one raffle ticket. After buying a ticket at the starting point participants are encouraged to walk or bike to meet with the growers.

Jeanene Miller of Abundant Greens will be on the tour. She sells her amazing tomato plant starts and provides a Community Share Agriculture (CSA) for members who pick up vegetables weekly from her front porch. Also on the tour this year will be the two Ballard Sprouts greenhouses. Part of Sustainable Ballard, Ballard Sprouts is a community effort to grow vegetable starts that go to the P-patches for their Giving Gardens, which then provide hundreds of pounds of produce to food banks.

The Edible Garden Tour is much more than a beauty pageant. Their stated goal is to: educate and inspire folks to grow food by giving examples of creative uses of parking strips, containers, raised beds, bee houses, chicken coops, goats, fruit trees, berries and more. Gardeners are encouraged to be available to talk about their plots, which enhances the educational aspect for both host and visitor. Consuelo Echeverria, who uses parking strip and side yard to garden loves being on the tour because of all that she learns.

She grew up in a city unaccustomed to growing her own food but inspired by doing the tour years ago. Later as a converted food producer on the tour it was a visitor who suggested raised beds. Now she gets to promote her water-wise techniques using her 3’ deep beds. “I learn from the gardeners who visit, what works, new varieties. Plus, people who garden are interesting.”

Saturday’s focus is on the outside but on Sunday the draw is being able to see inside the homes. The Classic Home Tour also differs from the Edible Garden because Ballard Historical Society uses volunteer docents to staff the sites. Homeowners can stay to chat, but can also vanish. BHS president (and realtor) Mary Schile shared that she stayed to talk to visitors all day when her Tudor was on the tour. “Who else will appreciate searching eBay for just the right period sconce?” She assured 2016 homeowners that it’s not like the house is on the market, “They’re not looking for what’s wrong with it.”

There will be eight homes featured this year, all built between 1892-1934, with the majority west of 24th NW. It’s the Ballard Historical Society’s main fundraiser, and it only takes place every three years. This is Lesli Cook’s third time managing it, and like Consuelo Echeverria with the Edible Garden Tour, she was hooked after her first time as a visitor. Cook loves older homes and knows she’s not alone. After all BHS hopes to sell 500 tickets, available at locations beforehand, Brown Paper tickets, or at home base at Sunset Hill Community Clubhouse starting at 10 a.m. ($20). The 26th represents several months of researching and photographing the homes, which becomes part of the printed program and a booklet for the homeowner. Using Echeverria’s way of thinking, there can be so much to learn about older homes from the visitors.

Especially for those who can’t resist doing both the Edible Garden and the Classic Home Tour the final stop should be the Taste of Sunset Hill on Sunday from 4-6 p.m. at the clubhouse. It’s billed as an opportunity to sample wine and appetizers from the Royal Drummer at Ballard Public, new to Ballard but familiar to fans of Maple Leaf’s Cloud City.

Okay, maybe I’m the only one asking, “What was I thinking?” I probably miss the Edible Garden Tour because I’ll be decluttering, dusting and vacuuming before Sunday’s Classic Home Tour: somehow my house got on that program and it’s going to be a long week before the big weekend.

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