Tag Archives: community gardens

bulbs

Autumn In The Garden Of The Winter Of Our Discontent

It’s December. October was really the time to put my summer vegetable garden to bed, really. To pull out the dying tomato vines, the bitter overgrown lettuce plants, the fall peas I planted that didn’t really grow in time to produce any peas. But, that didn’t happen. Who can even remember why?

So for the past week I was checking the forecast, hoping for a mild enough, dry December day where I could get to my plot and at the very least plant the bulbs I went on a shopping spree buying. Thursday it was! Low forties, no rain on the forecast, and I was going to steal a chunk of my freelancer’s lunch hour to get in, drop some bulbs, and get out.

Of course, the ground was cold and wet from all the earlier rain, and it soaked right through my gloves, and my jacket kept dragging in the dirt, and gross half-rotted fallen tomatoes were scattered around like tiny boobytraps. But, I persevered!

I just hope I did it right. Five inches down? Three? Oh who can remember! Here’s a photo of my Gypsy Princess hyacinth, Mount Hood daffodil, and Angelique, Sun Parrot, Black Parrot, and Lilac Perfection tulip bulbs all nestled in nice and cozy. (So I can refer back to this later and see where the heck I put them and if they all grew!)
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That took long enough that I didn’t really have time to deal with all the dead or going-to-freeze-and-die-soon plants still in the ground, so … I just left them. But I still seemed to have un-picked carrots with healthy green leaves coming out of the soil, so I pulled them all up at once for my final harvest of the season. Pretty great because one of these is actually the biggest carrot I grew all year (maybe it needed five months to fully develop? What the heck variety did I plant?). And just one weird carrot grew a crazy beard of roots. So, that’s cool.

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But back indoors, cozy and warm, are these amaryllis bulbs. They’ve been in my apartment, un-potted, for so long that they’ve started to sprout shoots anyway, even with no soil or water. Damn! That must be a good sign, right?

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Partially-read book review: The Circle Of Simplicity

Look, oh friends, where I’ve been all morning. Post-shower, post-breakfast, I didn’t have it in me to sit down at the old laptop just yet. I was sleepy, sure, but I was also nervous because I have to return a library book a.s.a.p. — some other patron has requested it, and so I can’t do my usual renew-it-six-times-until-I-get-around-to-it routine — and I’ve been wolfing it down like it’s a cake that’s about to spoil. So I took my green tea to the community garden to camp out for half an hour, to get a few more pages in. You know, until the mosquitoes drove me to insanity. But this is a perfect day, warm but not humid, sunny but not hot, and the mosquitoes must all be napping, and I read and chatted with other gardeners coming in to water their plants and walk their babies for an hour and a half. 20130731-113334.jpg

“What are you reading?” asked JoJo, a fellow gardener, a public school teacher and expecting father asked when he came in to water his plot. I showed him my book: The Circle of Simplicity: Return to the good life, by Cecile Andrews, which caught my eye on a recent borrowing spree at the library. (Its first blurb is from the one and only Juliet Schor.) “Does she say you should join a community garden?” he said with a smile. “I think she’s going to,” I replied.

Andrews’ premise is, in a nutshell, that we’re not well, we hard-working Americans. We’re tired and cranky and lonely and sick and divorced and a little desperate. And it’s because we’ve been sold on the idea that we should follow a certain formula: success in work + success in building a little castle = happiness and success in life. But the big TVs and cars only separate us from other people, and working to buy those things separates us from our true gifts, passion, and drains our energy for life. Not to mention the toll this all takes on the poor planet, which we’re squeezing dry with all our successful widget-producing and comfortable, affluent living.

Re-thinking your priorities, finding your own truths about what you want in life, and connecting with other people— at the grocery store, on your block, at the playground or church or temple — are some of the big-picture remedies she suggests. The more involved you are in authentic relationships, and the more time you spend doing things that give you pleasure, fulfillment, and purpose, the less time you spend numbed out in front of mediocre television (this book was written in 1997, before TV got a lot better) or shopping, worried that your clothes aren’t good enough yet.

A lot of her anecdotes and analyses might feel familiar to a reader who is already exploring these ideas, but she’s very astute at identifying subtle factors: for example, the way wide streets and the fact that we don’t build front porches anymore make it harder for us to have casual contact with our neighbors. Even in New York, where we live in close proximity, many neighborhoods have seen their hangout cafes, or their community-based grocery stores, replaced by big chains. This book will make an outstanding introduction for anyone interested in just exploring their own doubts and questions about their lifestyle for the first time. In fact, I think it makes an excellent read to start with before jumping into Juliet Schor’s Plenitude (check out Treehugger’s recap here), which is less philosophical but gets down to the brass tacks of sustainability and personal economics.

“Simplicity Circles,” a cross between a book-club and a consciousness-raising group, are part of Andrews’ vision toward helping people change their lives. You can’t change without support and community, she says, and you can’t have community without laughter. That’s partly what I hope to do with this blog — laugh at the foibles that come along when trying to make deliberate change, and to share them with others. I’m thinking about putting a little note inside the book when I return it to the library, so maybe the person who’s waiting for it so eagerly will invite me to join theirs.

UPDATE: I picked up the book again over a late lunch, and came across this spot-on description of gardening:

“My whole life experience has taught me that the intellectual life is superior to the physical life, particularly the life of nature. So it wasn’t until just a few years ago that I started gardening. I had always thought that the reason you gardened was to have flowers around, so it would look beautiful. I didn’t realize that gardening was an end in itself.

 

In fact, I was astonished to see how much I loved weeding—it was almost a mystical experience. I would start weeding and become totally absorbed. Down on my knees among the tall flowers and plants, I felt different, I felt expanded. I wouldn’t want to stop, even though I knew that, after all that bending, I probably wouldn’t be able to walk the next day.”

New kid on the block: compost bike

Top speed: 100 miles/hour, I think.

Make way in the bike lane for the newest thing in biking and do-gooding! This new project, the NYC Excess Bodega Bike, combines some of my favorite things: Spain, innovation, and environmentalism, and puts them on wheels in the form of a custom cargo bike. Like something Mrs. Armitage would ride, this Franken-bike can weigh, carry, and compost food picked up from small, food-centered businesses like coffee shops and markets that are throwing it out. The edible food can still be eaten, the waste won’t end up in a landfill, and the compost will end up at a community garden. Winning!

This project was originally done in Madrid and known as Mermas Carrito, but the Bodega Bike bike was put together during a free, collaborative workshop at Brooklyn’s 3rd Ward, which is how I found out about it. Though the pick-up service is meant to be temporary, Excess is only partnering with businesses “in exchange for a commitment from the participating businesses to improve their food waste practices.”

Now I’m going to give away one of my million-dollar ideas: why not set this up as a social-purpose business? Waste disposal is a serious cost for businesses, and if someone can develop a business model that makes diverting organic waste to a composting program more affordable for anyone in the food industry, you’ve just won yourself a lot of clients. Coffee shops would hire you to pick up all those used-up grounds, and then someone else pays you for the compost you’ve produced with it. People are paying you left and right to just take care of a mountain of dirt, and the environment and your bank account are flush with green. I’ve been promising myself to look into this for some time.

Drop me a line if you want to go into business together. In the meantime, keep up with the food rescue and compost project on Excess NYC’s site, whose blog also has lots of other great learning for ya.