Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Perfect Sunday

The recipe is simple. Take four good friends, add 25 pounds of pick-your-own strawberries, one gorgeous summer day, and various jam-making supplies, and there you have it. The perfect Sunday.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Square by Square

The garden is coming along nicely.

The potatoes are getting huge (they are much bigger now than when I took this photo last week), but they haven't flowered yet. Should they have? I've never grown potatoes before.

On the south side of the plot we have:

  • Ponca butternut squash and Casper pumpkin (from seed, in top left corner)
  • Desiree potato
  • Bush pickler cucumber (from seed in the three consecutive "empty" spaces, and transplant)
  • Red and yellow bell pepper
  • Mache aka corn salad (in bottom left square, above the snap peas)
  • Dwarf grey snap pea - these are goners, I'm going to plant something else in there soon
  • and Giant strawflower, Double pinwheel marigold, and Zinnia (in lower right corner)

***Mache - I probably won't bother planting this again because it's slow and not very tasty. But I got the seeds from Bartram's Garden so I had to try it out.***

On the north side of the plot we have:

  • Golden beets and Watermelon radish (in succession in the top left)
  • Oxheart carrot
  • Emerald oak lettuce
  • Fordhook giant swiss chard
  • Santo cilantro, Bush basil, Dukat dill, Arugula (all seeds, not sprouting yet)
  • Bush pickler cucumber
  • Black Krim tomato
  • Green Zebra tomato
  • Sweet 100 cherry tomato
  • and the remnants of the mesculun mix

So pretty!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Community Garden Projects - Reveal!

In February of this year a group of neighbors and I sat down at my kitchen table, drank tea and discussed the idea of creating a new community garden in our neighborhood. Now, almost four months later, we have two garden projects we are working on and a list of over 75 people interested in helping out and getting plots. It's more than a little overwhelming and exciting that this is actually happening and that I am in charge.

There is a core group of about 7 neighbors who come to the meetings and are instrumental in getting things done. One of those people is Sue, the director of a fabulous local non-profit called UC Green (they do urban greening projects in West Philly). As a result of her generous suggestion we are calling ourselves (yes it's clumsy and wordy, but it sounds official) The UC Green Community Garden Initiative. We have a name!

We have also attracted the attention of other community groups interested in vacant land reclamation, community gardens, and urban redevelopement. West Philly Digs is a group of young activists who are interested in turning vacant lots in West Philly into community gardens. Eric, the founder, has been one of our core garden committee members from the beginning.

We are also collaborating with The Enterprise Center Community Development Corporation, a small business incubator that serves Walnut Hill, the neighborhood immediately north of mine. Their mission is to help local minority entrepreuners start small businesses. In that spirit, they are starting a kitchen incubator called the Center for Culinary Enterprises (you think our name is wordy, check out this one: The Enterprise Center Community Development Corporation's Center for Culinary Enterprises, TEC-CDC CCE). They bought an abandoned supermarket and are building several industrial, Health Department-approved kitchens for people to rent out! I think this project is amazing because it provides a resource for local food enptrepreuners to legally sell their products. And we are collaborating with them to create a community garden where some of those people can grow their own food for processing - locally grown, locally processed food!

So, with the background info out of the way, onto the projects.

Project #1:
The hardest part about this project so far is finding available land. Duh. Our part of West Philly is the advancing front of gentirfication and land is expensive and in high demand. We struggled with this challenge for a while and then The Enterprise Center approached us with a peice of land. This land is behind the 46th Street elevated subway station and it is currently owned by SEPTA (the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority). In September of this year it will be deeded over to The Enterprise Center for $1 and our councilwoman has given TEC the job of making it into a park or other community space. Given that they have no budget for this project, we will be collaborating with TEC to make this into one of our community gardens!

Here is the space, it's roughly 60' by 100'. We're calling it The Blue Line Garden after the subway line that runs next to it.

***South side, looking north - you can see the El in the background. SEPTA put up a silly fence that's not attached to anything on the south side of the lot. You can see the front slope covered in weeds and a set of cement stairs that we plan to make into the main entrance to the garden.***

***South side, looking west.***

***South side, looking east - another set of rickety cement steps that we are currently using to access the site.***

***North side, looking south - the line of rocks shows where the site begins to slope down and turn into a parking lot/storage space for SEPTA. We are only dealing with the area between the rocks and the silly fence.***

We had a work day on May 9th and 25 people came out to help! We weeded, removed rocks, raked and graded the land, and did a little bit of planting along the front slope.

Here are some before and after shots from the southwest corner:



All of the amazing panoramic-style photos are by Adam, one of two local landscape architects who are working with us on this project. We have been so incredibly lucky in attracting people to this project who all have different talents. There's Joe, who knows everyone and is a tireless volunteer for all things urban greening in the neighborhood. There's Sue, our non-profit director who is lending us tools, a name, and countless other resources. There are Nancy and Vivianne (who I met at Garden Tenders in the winter) who manage other gardens in the area and were the impetus for this whole thing. There are Patty and Adam, our landscape architects. There's Imanni and other staff members from The Enterprise Center who were insturmental in getting this project off the ground. There's M, who has grant-writing and park-building experience. There's Nic, who has started community gardens elsewhere and is probably second only to me in his enthusiasm about our projects. This whole process of garden-building has been made so much easier by the passionate involvement of all of these wonderful people.

Project #2:
In April we approached the director of The Woodlands (a historic cemetery in West Philly that is a popular place for local runners and dog walkers) about the possibility of putting a community garden on the grounds. Much to our surprise, she said that she had already been thinkking about a projcet like that! So I wrote a proposal and the board is currently reviewing it. Our ace-in-the-hole is that Sue (thank God for Sue) is on the Horticulture Commitee for the Woodlands and she will be presenting our proposal and garden design to the board next weekend.

Here is the space, it's roughly 30' by 80'. We're calling it The Woodlands Community Garden:

***From the west side, looking east. The space is bounded by an historic carraige house on the south and several larger trees on the north.***

***From the east, looking west.***

Our two projects are completely different in many ways. Where the Blue Line Garden is a very visible urban redevelopment project that is equal parts community activism and urban greening, The Woodlands Community Garden is on a peice of land that is off the street, scenic, and has an almost exclusive feel to it. Other things that make The Woodlands project easier are: UC Green stores their tools in a shed on the other side of that low wall and we will have access to them as members of the garden; the water hookup is less than 100' from the entrance to the garden (the east side); and there are piles of free woods chips on the grounds that we can use to cover the paths of the garden.

So there you go, all the info you need to know about my comunity garden projects. Now that we've got that out of the way I will be updating you on our progress, including what happens at the next work day at the Blue Line Garden and how the board responds to our proposal for The Woodlands Community Garden.

Have a lovely long weekend!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sunday, May 17, 2009

My own personal season opener

Tuesday May 12, 2009
Philadelphia Phillies 5, LA Dodgers 3

Jayson Werth stole four bases, including home. Go Phils!

Friday, May 15, 2009

I get to work here . . .

This is Bartram's Garden in the spring time. The copious rain we've been getting means that every time I walk these paths the view changes. This week the native azalea bushes are going gangbusters, the birds are out, and the blooming locusts are making the garden smell like heaven.

**The boardwalk in the wetland alongside the Schuylkill River**

**Mossy path covered with Carolina Silverbell flowers**

**Stone garden wall built and carved by John Bartram c.a. 1758**

**The stone house, built by John Bartram from 1731 to 1770**

**The robin who lives in the tree outside our classroom**

I am loving my job right now. And it seems as though I've truly made myself indispensable elsewhere too because I recently got hired by Tyler Arboretum to do some weekend environmental education work! I start on Sunday, wish me luck!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Garden progress

The garden is growing, slowly. So far the only thing to harvest are salad greens, but M and I have had at least four large salads from this patch already! We've also had a solid week of rain which has been good for the garden, bad for my windowsill seedlings. They are long and leggy and I'm thinking I will have to buckle down and buy some starts if I want tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and peppers in my garden.

It also looks as though we've had some visitors in the pea patch. Visitors with long fuzzy ears and buck teeth. I shake my fist at you, you wascaly wabbits.

On the bright side, I visited the Fairmount Park Organic Recycling Center where I got two big buckets full of beautiful compost for FREE. I love free. At the Recycling Center anyone can get up to a trash can full of compost, manure or wood chip mulch for free. After that it's $18 for 1/2 ton (of compost, I'm not sure about the rest). Here it is all laid out in the garden. I didn't want to suffocate the seedlings in some squares so they miss out.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

For the Mamas

I just spent a lovely Mother's Day in NJ gardening with my sister and my mamma while my pops BBQed lunch and dinner for us. I hope all the mothers out there had just as wonderful a weekend.

Here's something I'm making for another mother in my life. D, the mom of the two boys I occasionally sit for is pregnant with their third, a baby girl! I'm knitting a little blanket for her in a simple basket weave design which I've attempted to ravel here.

When I make baby blankets I try to make them gender neutral, like this one I made in primary colors for my friends' new baby (he was new at the time). The current blanket has girly overtones, what with the purple and all, but I think it's different enough and at least it's not pink. I made a lot of progress on it last weekend when I was trapped in Atlanta. D is about 5 months pregnant so I have a healthy amount of time to finish this blanket, time that I will need because my craftiness has really fallen off recently.

We also made a lot of progress on the new community garden this weekend, and I think I am finally ready to spill the beans about it. Things seem to be concrete enough now for me to tell you about the garden without worrying that I'll have to take everything back the next day. So stay tuned!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Heavenly granola . . . balls?

I made some no-bake granola bars last night by seriously tweaking this recipe from Bitten. Oh my heavens. Oh lordy, they are magnificent. I'm going to tell you what I did so you can run to your cupboard and make these pronto.

Oh, and instead of "pressing them into a 9 inch pan and cutting them" I took the short cut and used cupcake tins. Hence the balliness of them.

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups granola
  • 1 cup mixture of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, slivered almonds, dried cranberries, roasted salted soynuts
  • 1/2 tspn cinnamon
  • 1. Put the first five ingredients in a small pot and bring to a boil (don't let it go too long or it will burn). Put the granola etc. in a large bowl and pour the sugar mixture over the top while mixing; stir until the granola is well coated.
  • 2. Press into cupcake tins and let cool in the fridge. Cover each one with plastic wrap and try your hardest to fend off friends, relatives and coworkers.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I'd like to be/under the sea . . .

This weekend I got hijacked by the thunderstorms that poured rain all up and down the east coast. I went to my high school friend Emily's wedding in Florida and I ended up spending an unscheduled night in Atlanta on the way home. Ick. But it was worth it, sunburnt shoulders and all.

I recently got back in touch with Emily after a six year hiatus while we both went our separate ways to college and beyond. As fate would have it we reconnected last fall, a few days before she and her now-husband were going to be in Davis as part of their let's-find-a-new-place-to-live road trip! So they stayed with me in Davis and we found out that we still had a lot of things in common (probably more now than in high school). A love for food co-ops, bicycle transportation, and good beer to name a few.

So last weekend I was lucky enough to be present as Emily, my high school friend, got married. I am now officially in the next stage of life.

Emily and Nick's wedding was perfect in so many ways. They did all of the planning themselves, on a budget, with as many eco-friendly touches as possible. I'm not sure if this makes sense to anyone else, but to me it seemed that every single detail was so well thought out and deeply personalized that the event itself was truly a symbol of their partnership and commitment to each other.

The ceremony took place on the beach and the reception took place in the space underneath their rented beach house. The colors were recycled-paper-brown and yellow green, and everything had this fabulous upside down octopus on it. The party favors were screenprinted reusable grocery bags and the table cloths were screenprinted recycled paper. Each table had glass jars filled with sand, wild flowers, candles and crayons. And check it out, a cupcake tower!!

All of the friends stayed in neighboring beach houses and we all helped to set up the event (which was really awesome because it felt like more of a community undertaking that way). There were events to attend all weekend too so I actually got to spend some time with the bride and groom.

So I have a wedding to go to in June (plus two others in June that I can't go to because they are all on the same exact day) and another one in September. They are all friends' weddings and I'm sure all will be just as highly personalized as this one. It's overwhelming to be entering this phase of my life, but I'm such a sap that I'm actually looking forward to them.