Friday, June 20, 2008

Georgia Street Update!

Cub posted a few more photos of his Georgia Street Garden today on DYes.   Once this garden is in full-bloom, it's going to be gorgeous.  I can't believe he's actually growing tomatillos and potatoes.  Mine always looked kind of wonky.  Lots of cabbages and kale and a ton of tomatoes growing.  I haven't been able to get to the garden lately.  The gas prices and driving around Detroit are taking its tole on my budget lately and with kids finally home from school (and their boredom), entertaining myself, let alone kids, is getting expensive.  Still, I plan to make a few trips to Georgia Street just to check out how beautiful everything is doing and hang out with Cub for a bit.  The garden makes that whole corner gorgeous!  I hope each year it becomes more bountiful for the neighborhood.  It's a close neighborhood.  They all watch out for the garden.

By the way, I wanted to mention that if this blog looks odd on your computer, I'm working with a Mac and to me, it looks perfectly fine.  Therefore, get a Mac.  I'm not switching back to a PC. 

Also, I had mentioned to Cub about the Detroit Ancestor Search I'd been doing in a few cemeteries and found a young boy who was born in 1915 and died in 1933.  When I started searching for him on the census, it stated that in 1930 he lived on....Georgia Street!  How coincidental to choose this one boy and find he's on Cub's street?  If anyone lived in the area, the boy's name was Vincenzo Cambino.  He drowned in a brick yard in Detroit.  Poor boy.  

Have a great weekend!

New Farmer's Market Opening!

Taken from

The East Warren Avenue Farmers Market will be located in the parking lot across from the Re-employment Transition Center, on the NE corner of Bishop and E. Warren Avenue, Detroit, MI 48224.  We plan to open on July 12th and run every Saturday through the end of October, from 10 a.m- 3pm.

G.R.O.W. is a collaborative funded through the USDA Community Food Projects Competitive Grants Program, and is working to nurture community farming and development of food related businesses on the Eastside of Detroit and in Highland Park.  G.R.O.W.'s partners include Warren/Conner Development Coalition, Wayne-Metropolitan Community Action Agency, Michigan State University Extension-Wayne County, the Garden Resource Program Collaborative, and Rebuilding Communities, Inc.

In our efforts to establish a new farmers market on the Eastside, G.R.O.W. has thus far received additional organizational support from East Warren Avenue Business Association, East English Village Association, Re-employment Transition Center, and the committed members of the Eastside community who make up our farmers market planning subcommittee.

G.R.O.W. and our community partners are currently working to secure a diverse range of vendors for the new farmers market-featuring both urban and rural producers.  Those interested in volunteering to help in establishing this new market, as well as those who would like to apply to become vendors, please contact Ryan Hertz, G.R.O.W. Project Coordinator, at 313-571-2800 extension 1136, or e-mail

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Top 10 Reasons To Buy Locally

1. Locally grown food tastes better.
Food grown in your own community was probably picked within the past 24 hours.  It's crisp, sweet and loaded with flavor.  Produce flown or trucked in from California, Florida, Chile, or Holland is, quite understandably, much older (Plus, there's nothing like a Michigan tomato!).  Several studies have shown that the average distance food travels from farm to plate is 1,500 miles.  In a week-long (or more) delay from harvest to dinner table, sugars turn to starches, plant cells shrink, and produce loses it vitality.  Mexico fertilizes with human waste.  You take your chances when you eat THERE.  They have over-the-counter medication if you're hit.  That drug is not available, nor approved by the FDA, here.  See my previous post on Montazuma's Revenge.

2.  Local produce is better for you.
A recent study showed that fresh produce loses nutrients quickly.  Food that is frozen or canned soon after harvest is actually more nutritious than some "fresh" produce that has been on the truck or supermarket shelf for a week.  Locally grown food, purchased soon after harvest, retains its nutrients.

3.  Local food preserves genetic diversity.
In the modern industrial agriculture system, varieties are chosen for their ability to ripen simultaneously and withstand harvesting equipment; for a tough skin that can survive packing and shipping; and for an ability to have a long shelf life in the store.  Only a handful of hybrid varieties of each fruit and vegetable meet these rigorous demands, so there is little genetic diversity in the plants grown.  Local farms, in contrast, grow a huge number of varieties to provide a long season of harvest, an array of eye-catching colors, and the best flavors.  Many varieties are heirlooms, passed down from generation to generation because they taste good.  These old varieties contain genetic material from hundreds or even thousands of years of human selections; they may someday provide the genes needed to create varieties that will thrive in a changing climate.

4.  Local certified organic food is GMO-free.
Although biotechnology companies have been trying to commercialize genetically modified fruits and vegetables, they are currently licensing them only to large factory-style farms.  Local farmers don't have access to genetically modified seed, and most of them wouldn't use it even if they could.  A June 2001 survey by ABC News showed that 93% of Americans want labels on genetically modified food-most so that they can avoid it.  If you are opposed to eating bioengineered food, you can rest assured that locally grown produce was bred the old-fashioned way, as nature intended.

5.  Local food supports local farm families.
With few than 1 million Americans now claiming farming as their primary occupation, farmers are a vanishing breed.  And no wonder-commodity prices are at historic lows, often below the cost of production.  The farmer now gets less than 10 cents of the retailer food dollar.  Local farmers who sell direct to consumers cut out the middleman and get full retail prices for their food - which means farm families can afford to stay on the farm, doing the work they love.

6.  Local food builds community.
When you buy direct from the farmer, you are re-establishing a time-honored connection between the eater and the grower.  Knowing the farmer gives you insight into the seasons, the weather, and the miracle of raising food.  In many cases, it gives you access to a farm where your children and grandparents can go to learn about nature and agriculture.  Relationships built on understanding and trust can thrive.

7.  Local food preserves open space.
As the value of direct-marketed fruits and vegetables increases, selling farmland for development becomes less likely.  You have probably enjoyed driving out to the country and appreciate the lush fields of crops, the meadows full of wildflower, the picturesque red barns.  That landscape will survive only as long as farms are financially viable.  When you buy locally grown food, you are doing something proactive about preserving the agricultural landscape.

8.  Local food keeps your taxes in check.
Farms contribute more in taxes than they require in services, whereas suburban development costs more than it generates in taxes, according to several studies.  On average, for every $1 in revenue raised by residential development, government must spend $1.17 on services, thus requiring higher taxes of all taxpayers.  For each dollar of revenue raised by farm, forest, or open space, governments spend $0.34 on services.

9.  Local food supports a clean environment and benefits wildlife.
A well-managed family farm is a place where the resources of fertile soil and clean water are valued.  Good stewards of the land grow cover crops to prevent erosion and replace nutrients used by their crops.  Cover crops also capture carbon emissions and help combat global warming.  According to some estimates, farmers who practice conservation tillage could sequester 12-14% of the carbon emitted by vehicles and industry.  In addition, the habitat of a farm -the patchwork of fields, meadows, woods, ponds and buildings - is the perfect environment for many beloved species of wildlife, including bluebirds, killdeer, herons, bats and rabbits.

10.  Local food is about the future.
By supporting local farmers today, you can help ensure that there will be farms in your community tomorrow, and that future generations will have access to nourishing, flavorful and abundant food.

Shop Eastern Market
Shop Ypsilanti Market
Shop Royal Oak Market
Shop Ann Arbor Market
Shop Redford Township Market (Opening in July)
Shop East Warren Avenue Farmers Market (Opening July 14th)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

St. Albertus Art Show!

On June 20 & 21st, please join us at 4231 St. Aubin for a two night showing of the 1000% Art Show.  New works by Sean Nader (Paintings) and Christopher Hiltz (Photographs).  The shows will be held in the Rectory and open from 5pm-10pm both evenings and 10am-2pm Saturday afternoon.  There will be refreshments, music, raffles, smiles hugs, and a general sense of good cheer.  

Hope to see you there!

Root Cellars

To the left is a plastic garbage can used for root storage.  Not shown are holes drilled in for air circulation and rocks placed at the bottom.  Root vegetables are wrapped in polyprop. (plastic) in layers.  You have to make sure that the top layer of dirt allows for drainage away from the garbage can and adding a layer of straw helps keep the lid cool without freezing.  Root vegetables and fruit should not be stored together as the gas fruit emits will ripen vegetables.

To the right is a typical Polish root cellar in Rzsezow, Poland.  I located one in Rzsezow because a large majority of Poles in Detroit were from this area and this would be similar to what root cellars may have looked like years ago in Poletown.  There's something to be said about how the old basements in homes used to be.  A dirt floor could be dug up and cold storage would be placed underground.  Most homes back then had a cellar just for food storage.  My grandmother had one in her basement (Spotlessly clean.  No such thing as dust in my grandmother's home!).  It's unfortunate that homes are no longer built to actually store food that is grown.  We live in such an instant and overworked country that we believe we have no time for such things.  They're the usual bigfoot homes with drywall, rather than plaster -basically better looking mobile homes but just as crappy and without the land lease.   It's my kids' generation who crave all that indoor space but with a bargain basement price tag (Quality craftsmanship for a 5,000 sq. ft. home WILL NOT cost 350k.  Try 2.5 million-plus instead).  All that room and no cellar.  What is it that we're calling that generation these days?  Oh yes, "The Millennial Generation"......their sense of entitlement is so inspiring (not).   

I've just realized, having finally looked under the crawl for half of my home that it is just about perfect for cold storage.  There are no rodents, pea gravel lines the soil (There's no concrete under our house as flooring) and it's an even, cool temperature.  Next year, when I try my hand at potatoes (I've always failed at it), this will be the place to store tubers.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Homemade Greenhouses

Years ago I took a trip to Europe.  Alone.  I was 19 years old.  I met a nice group of soccer players on-board my flight.  I drank vodka with them.  I had no clue where I was heading once the plane landed.  Had it not been for those drunken footballers, I'd never have found my hotel.  They hailed a cab for me, gave the address to the cabbie and threw me in.  Once I checked in, I slept for a good 12 hours.

In the 1980's, before massive immigration and "No-Go" zones (British leaving England in 2007; 166,000.  Immigrants arriving in 2007; 250,000), the east side was filled with those wonderful people called Cockneys (Stepney was a huge hub for Cockneys - a dying breed now).  I was offered a few weeks to stay with a Cockney family before heading North.  

The east end was filled with Council houses.  Council homes are three stories high and skinny, rather than wide, and are connected to each other (Picture old Philadelphia's Elfreth Alley.  Same thing).  English Council homes usually have a small gated front garden and a bit of land in the backyard that is bricked in.  The English are master gardeners and I recall my friend's mother having roses growing everywhere (her name was Rose Flowers, by the way).  She used to use tea from her tea balls and surround her roses.  A little shed held her tools and she started her plantings earlier than usual.  Her daughter kept her bunny in their shed and his name was "Dollar" (She was completely infatuated with all things American).

This homemade greenhouse is actually in Wales but you can see what a little ingenuity can come up with.  Old windows and doors can be placed into old sheds to make them lovely and help with seedlings in early Spring.  I've even seen windows and doors laid over raised beds for early planting.  As a matter of fact, that's such a great idea, I'm thinking of doing it myself!

Next year I'll be adding more raised beds to the backyard.  Cub and I would both like to extend the growing season into Winter so if you have old windows and Cub here.