Saturday, June 28, 2008


There wasn't too much the kids or I could do today so we decided we'd see a movie.  I cannot recommend more highly the movie, Wall.E.  There is so much love packed into this feature.  The creativity, with regard to machinery interacting with each other and how everything snaps together, is mind-boggling.  I hope NASA pays attention to this one.  There is a very important message in this flick for everyone and anyone to understand.  We ARE destroying the planet.  I won't spoil it for you but it involves waste, robots, air, plants, the million year old cockroach, love, laziness, obesity.  It has a lot to do with gardening, sustainable living, the importance of plant life and teaching children NOT to use the clicker for their tv and instead going out and DOING SOMETHING!

We grabbed dinner afterward and always talk about what we've just watched.  There was applause after the movie!  Remember applauding for a movie?  The soundtrack was beautiful with Peter Gabriel singing the closing song.  Plus, even little children understand the importance given to the Earth in this film.  They picked up on it so quickly that "She needs to be cared for."

That is the message.  The other is how on earth, with everything we've been given to be happy (not that we're put here to be happy), did we became such lazy, miserable, fat people?  

This is a wonderful, thought-provoking movie for all ages.  Don't have kids?  Go by yourself.  It was a joy.

NOTE:  The Ebert & Roper Show has stated that they don't believe the beginning of the film is fast enough to keep a young child's attention.  This is bs.  They also don't think young children are smart enough to follow along with regard to environment or sloth.  I have a seven year old.  Granted, she's a smart seven year old.  Roper obviously believes that our children are as naive as we once were and can't absorb the information.  Roper obviously has ADD and needs to take his Ritalin.

Georgia Street Update!

We've had some pretty severe rainstorms over the past few weeks which was probably started by the extreme humidity that came before it.   Cub posted a few photos on his site of the after-effects and we've all been soaked by all the water.  Still, I'm not going to complain.  Considering how the rest of the country is drenched lately and the fact that a friend's home in New Jersey floated away (as she watched), I'm going to count my blessings.  My plants will be fine, but soggy.  Cub's plants will be fine (and could possibly handle a drought for awhile) but mushy.

Except for old, dead trees, everyone's alive and well in the City and suburbs.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Shed Envy

I have a dream.  

Somewhere to get away from everyone either in Winter or Spring.  A little light bulb for those evenings when I flee the rest of the family - even if it's just steps away.  Cold weather won't be a problem.  I like the cold.  Heat will be a problem.  Therefore, if I have a light bulb, I have electricity and will somehow figure out how to shove a window air-conditioner into a small space.

Problem:  My city would tax the living life out of me for building anything a human could occupy for more than 10 minutes.  Therefore, no shed.  

Shed envy.  Very depressing.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What To Do With A Dead Tree

Because Michigan is filled with so many Ash trees, I was thinking of the one located in Cub's garden and how to work around it.  I found an idea!  String up your dead tree and grow pole beans around it!

(Photos from Future House Farm)

Great Recycling Ideas!

I am a huge fan of anyone who can take throw-aways and turn them into something beautiful.  Little Beach Homestead has wonderful ideas for fencing her garden with re-usable materials.  Old doors as fences.  Who would have thought?  Very cool looking.  She also found an old tool box in her garage and had her husband mount it on their fencing and voila!  Instant eye-candy.

Personally, I'd like to knock down the house next door to mine and use that half-acre as extended farm land and a few farm animals (goats, chickens).  We could have our own neighborhood garden.  Unfortunately, it probably will cost 7-10k to knock down a farm house that's sinking into the ground and one that no one wants to buy.  

Anyone want to buy a sinking old farmhouse on a 1/2 acre that floods every Spring?  40k.

 Bring bulldozer.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Georgia Street Update!

I stopped by to see Cub today but he wasn't around so I took a few quick photos before having to move on to Bellevue Street where I am starting some research into a building there.  It looks as if the rain has helped quite a bit and Cub has planted so much recently that I'm sure the whole neighborhood is anticipating a lush garden by Fall.  This should be an amazing harvest and I hope to be there to photograph lots of happy, little faces.

Here's hoping DYes posters also stop by to see Cub and his family who have worked so hard to make a small dream come true.

Click on photos for a larger view.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Why Detroit MUST Garden

What once was will not be again.  What will be will require many hands.  The wonderful Grace Lee Boggs speaks.

Located behind the old Tiger Stadium, St. Peter's parish and neighborhood friends gather to grow a garden on a street corner.  

Corine Smith Photography

Perhaps it's just me, but every time I look at Corine's photographs, I don't think I see what the rest of the country sees in Detroit.  I see land becoming prairie and spreading.  Old homes being knocked down and re-claimed by nature - I'm sorry but I happen to think it's becoming naturally beautiful - and I think Corine has captured that face of Detroit.  If this spreads, and I think it will, Detroit will once again look as it did 100-plus years ago.  One thing Detroit has going for it - the city is HUGE.  Sidewalks to nowhere become sidewalks that can encircle a garden.  In my view, every abandoned, bull-dozed piece of land has the potential of feeding the whole neighborhood and re-creating a community.  One suburbanite's idea:  Can/will the City of Detroit pay back its citizens (and taxpayers) by creating a department used specifically for plowing land and helping in the creation of community gardens?  Taxpayers (and I am one) would go for this in a heartbeat!  My tax dollars to help Detroit bloom - there's something I'd agree to.  Children love to garden.  Seniors are experienced in just about everything that requires stretching a dollar and there is nothing more beautiful than land.

As captured by Corine Smith at - this is not desolate land.  This is what comes before - and it is gorgeous in its potential to bloom again.

Detroit's Urban Prairies - Detroiters Making A Change

Wayne County, Mich. - home to Detroit - has been hit especially hard by the mortgage crisis.

The county has inherited thousands of unwanted properties, leaving plot after plot of vacant land.  So a nonprofit group itched an idea:  Take that unused land, and grow food for the needy.

This year, the group - called Urban Farming - will take 20 derelict properties in Wayne County, then pull weeds, lay fresh topsoil, and plant fruits and vegetables.

The gardens aren't fenced off, so anyone can wander through and take their pick - for free.  Any leftover produce is donated to food banks.

A Huge Boon

Neighborhoods in Wayne County are littered with boarded-up homes and vacant land that's covered in knee-high grass.  Demolished apartment complexes have left empty lots the size of football fields.

That's why Urban Farming founder Taja Seville says Detroit was the perfect place to start working on farming projects.  The city has long suffered from a glut of available property, and last year it topped the nation in foreclosures.  Wayne County now has about 7, 000 (minus four on Georgia Street!) idle plots.  Seville saw that as an opportunity.

"I've lived in L.A., N.Y., Connecticut, London, Minneapolis, and been around a lot, seen a lot of cities.  But I've never seen these long stretches of unused land," says Seville.

Under the 20-plot pilot program, volunteers will tend the garden, and the city of Detroit will pitch in water.

Wayne County Treasurer Raymond Wojtowicz says that's a huge boon.

"It won't cost the county anything.  We're donating the land.  If a person wants to purchase the lot, it will be for sale.  Perhpas it will be an inducement," says Wojtowicz.

I Want to Garden There

Wojtowicz says the biggest benefit, though, is less blight in the neighborhood.  And residents say that, unlike abandoned houses, the gardens aren't targeted by vandals.

Detroit resident Eric Parrish says that those who live around the gardens respect the farming projects.  "They see we're doing something to help the community," he says.

Parrish says he recently started gardening with Urban Farming because it helps turn things around in his city.

"You can tell people are struggling.  So when I do see these plots of land it makes me say, 'I want to garden there,' " he says.

Parrish says most people are grateful for the gardens, although at first a few were concerned they would attract pests.

Turns out that urban farms do attract people, says Gail Carr, one of Detroit's city managers.  She has houses boarded up nearly every day and sees what a dramatic difference the gardens have on communities.

"People are coming out of their homes who wouldn't come out under other circumstances because they didn't think there was still a community or a neighbor or a friendly person nearby," she says.

Wojtowicz says the county is watching the program and hopes to expand it.

Seville isn't waiting to expand.  She plans to plant hundreds of gardens in at least a dozen other struggling cities this season.

Article and photography by Charla Bears of NPR News.


This is why I love Detroit so much.  When Detroit is down, when Detroit is struggling, when Detroit is being knocked by the rest of the country, it's the people who will, with very little funding, figure out a way to take care of EACH OTHER.  There is no stronger city than Detroit.  It is a very tough city but it's also a very giving city (but unforgiving of it should be).   What it is not is what the rest of the country tries to describe as being a war zone.  Newark, New Jersey is a war zone.  Get your facts straight, MSM - Detroit has issues but Newark was lost in the 1960's!  Detroit can only change.  It's been at the bottom - it will rise again.  Even if it turns into the best damn farming county in the state!  It is and always will be a city built by great people (excluding Kwame who can kiss my lily-white, suburban, Detroit-descended, Wayne County tax-paying ass!).

Biodiesel versus Vegetable Oil

In the 1890's Rudolf Diesel designed the original diesel engine to run on vegetable oil, but modern diesel engines are intended to run on petroleum diesel (NOTE:  If you buy your gas from Mobil, BP and/or Valero, you buy "terrorist oil".  Sunoco oil is not purchased from Saudi Arabia or Hugo "Butthead" Chavez.  See  Quit funding the Saudi's, Iran and Al-Quada!)

(And of course, I digress again....)

For those interested in making their own fuel for diesel engines, the world of biofuels offers two options; biodiesel or vegetable oil.  Using biodiesel requires modifications to the vegetable oil itself; using straight vegetable oil requires modification to the diesel engine.

Both biofuels have pros and cons, plus complicated nuances to their use and production.  But for those with enough patience and enthusiasm to embrace biodiesel or vegie oil fuel, the rewards can be great.

For starters, straight vegetable oil is too thick to burn in a standard diesel engine.  In cool weather, it becomes thick as butter, clogging fuel lines and injectors.  But a diesel vehicle can be modified to run on straight vegetable oil by using either a dual-tank or single-tank fuel system.

The dual-tank system requires one tank for diesel and another for vegetable oil - plus a system to switch from one fuel to the other.  The engine starts on diesel fuel, but switches to run on vegetable oil after heat produced by the engine warms the vegetable oil to about 160 degrees Fahrenheit.  Before shutting off the vehicle, diesel fuel is cycled through the fuel lines to purge the system of vegetable oil.  Because diesel fuel is required for starting the vehicle and clearing the lines before shutting down, a dual-tank system is better suited to vehicles that run for extended periods or distances.  A single-tank system preheats the vegetable oil using electric heat (plus the additional heat produced by the engine when it's running) and uses modified injectors and glow plugs that are optimally suited to ignite and combust vegetable oil.  (New diesel engines have precise fuel requirements that need to match the chemistry of the oil, but older engines have a better tolerance for a range of vegetable oils).  

(NOTE: How I wish'd I'd taken Shop in high school - but NO.....I was an art fag!)

Original article written by:  Derek Kanwischer

Mini Greenhouses

I mentioned to Cub that Mother Earth News had ads for different sized greenhouses with some starting as low as $299.  I can't find the $299 greenhouse but this one goes for $499 (free shipping!).  Large enough for a tall human being (that would be Cub), it has all the benefits of a high end greenhouse in a compact 4'x4' footprint.  Use it on a balcony, rooftop or in any garden where space is limited (does not apply to Georgia Street Garden!).  Unlike other mini-greenhouses, the Lit'l Propagator is tall enough at 72" for most adults to stand in.  Benches adjust so you can leave more room below for your taller plants.  The benches are even removable, leaving you plenty of space to over-winter container-grown plants, store garden tools, and so much more!  The twin-walled Solexx covering provides insulation and diffused light giving you more months of the year to enjoy gardening.  Found at with many more styles and prices.