Thursday, February 23, 2012

guerrilla community garden

the revolution is rising! we broke ground on an abandoned lot today. the place is about 1/4 acre of weeds and grass and rocks where the owner has just been dumping crap for years. we decided it needs better parents then that so we're adopting it. this is what the site looked like before we started:

and this is an hour later (i don't know why this pic is so blue):

right now it just has some wild flower seeds sprinkled on top. we'll add more useful things later in the season. we got the wood from the crap already on location and cleared out the weeds in a nice sunny spot with loose bare soil.
it was just me and a guy from the guerrilla gardening meetup group but it worked out fine. we're just testing the waters with this one little bed for now and we'll expand from there if no one freaks out. we spoke to a few neighbors who didn't seem to object and one lady from next door seemed really interested and is going to help us run a hose over the fence so we have a water source. i'm really excited. the worst that's going to happen is the owners tearing the whole thing out but i don't think it's that likely since the land has been unused for at least 10 years. because it's been untouched the soil is nice and rich and healthy, if a little rocky. if we take over the whole space we'll need to either pull out a lot of weeds and grass or dump a lot of topsoil on top to smother it. my vote is for pulling out the grass and composting it. we'll be putting a compost pile in a corner and we found a dog kennel that's going to be dismantled for plant supports. there's also 3 old tires that are going to become a potato stack. i may relocate and cultivate some of the native blackberries and snowdrops that are already thriving there.
eventually it would be great to cover the whole place with little beds tended by the community. seed the paths in between with hardy short wildflowers or lay down the broken tiles that are dumped there like paving stones. this is where we're going to plant the things i don't have room or enough sun for on the balcony, specifically things that are unlikely to be recognized as food and stolen. i know people think that no one would steal your tomatoes from the vine but it happens around here all the time. homeless people go into backyards and strip your harvest. if i do plant things that may be stolen i'm going to plant enough to share on purpose (those abundant cherry tomatoes!). it would be nice to put in some fruit trees as well. this is a huge undertaking but i'm hoping that others in the area will want to be a part of it.
we do not have permission from the owner to do this. we're doing it anyways on the principal that land should belong to those who care for it and are in it's care, especially when those who hold the property deed are neglecting it. lots of community gardens have started this way, with people just taking it over and it eventually gets sanctioned and protected. we're doing this openly and hoping to promote friendships among the community and make this neighborhood a safer and more pleasant place to live. can't you just see it?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

uncommon goods round up

valentine's is a time for indulgence and care of ourselves and our loved ones, is it not? it occurred to me how often i can be found hunting down interesting items that very few people know exist. i suppose i've become a bit of a connoisseur of the offbeat, interesting, and strange. i do a lot of DIYing so a lot of these hunts are for rare supplies or ingredients that non-crafty folk wouldn't have use for (bees wax pellets and e6000 glue, etc). i also frequent etsy, artisan indy stores, and markets for things i read about or that popped into my head and now i have to have them, hard to find or not. these often end up being among my favorite possessions, either for usefulness or beauty or both. i thought i'd share with you some little bits of affordable luxury. these are all things i either really want, am already waiting on my order, or have and use on a regular basis:

e-cigarettesthere's no long term studies on them yet and limited standardization for safety so be careful to do your research. these are becoming more and more popular either as an alternative to cigarettes or as a stop-smoking aid. it's a little metal cigarette that contains a rechargeable battery (usually usb charged), a little heating coil that atomizes the liquid, and a cartridge that holds your liquid and is your smoking tip. the liquid is a mix of glycerin, propylene glycol, nicotine, and flavourings (there's a whole world of recipes to mix your own blends too). i tried one of these the other night and it was really nice! not sure if it can replace smoking entirely for me but i'm sure it can reduce it quite a bit and more or less anything is healthier. since they only produce a water vapour you can "smoke" them anywhere and they're much cheaper and more eco-friendly than tobacco. the liquid also comes in tons of fun flavours. WANT

zomg smells
is this great little website i found via offbeathome where they make wonderfully geeky perfumes with names like "the melancholy death of nikola tesla" and "brontosaurus loves triceratops". i've heard great things. shipping is very reasonable and they have little 1ml samples called squees for about $3 each. a 10 pack of squees works out to about $30 after taxes and shipping. they seem to take quite some time to put your order together, i've been waiting almost a month already. if i like these ones i already have a list of at least 13 more i want to try, i'm super excited.

fake gauge earrings
oh i know, this is cheating and not very hardcore, especially by my usual go-hard-or-go-home standards, but it does give you the flexibility of big gauges when you want them and small ones when you don't. i think they look pretty good. i even found ones made with surgical steel posts so even my crazy sensitive skin can handle them. if you're not concerned about such things you have more options. etsy is a wonderful place. search "fake gauge earrings" for lots of options. most are made of wood, bone, or horn and most are hand carved.

metal or beaded bookmarks
i'm so sick of using scraps of trash in all my books. i love my books and i think they deserve nicer markers. i'm trying to amass a collection of ones i'm not ashamed of so there's always one around and i wont resort to gum wrappers and bus transfers. most of these are embarrassingly easy to make but if you really can't tell one end of a needle from another you can sometimes find these tucked in corners of bookshops and always on etsy. if all else fails a strip of pretty ribbon is better than trash

chameleon dresses
i had one of these made to my measurements and dyed to my preference for under $200 after tax and shipping but it looks like prices and fabrics have changed since then. this is still totally worth it. i love it to pieces. it's my go-to formal dress that i can tie in lots of different ways and it flatters any body type. best part is that it feels like pajamas! (hint-your prom dress looks like a prom dress. it's not appropriate for formal functions if you've been out of high school for more than a year or two. you're an adult now. attend adult parties looking like one)

kleanex is made of cottonwood trees. it also sheds dust and fibers like nobody's business. large amounts of people are allergic to cottonwood and dust. does this seem like a cruel joke to you? it does to me. i love handkerchiefs. i wish i had a ton more. i learned that if i have white ones and am not used to them yet, i often forget myself and toss them like you would a tissue. i was wondering where all of mine were going and then caught myself doing it one day. since then i get coloured ones. obviously it's insanely easy to make your own out of an old pillow slip or bed sheet, or even a thin t-shirt and then you don't even have to hem. i like mine about 12"-14" square but suit yourself. seriously tho, get some. so much nicer to your nose and you'll never run out of tissues again. just throw them in your regular laundry.

edible paper cake toppers
ok so these are totally indulgent but aren't they PRETTY!? they also come in flowers and leaves and dragonflies. they're made of rice paper, printed with food colouring. some of them are done on super thin sheets of frosting but those are made to be laid flat on your cake and they melt in. that's how they put photos on cakes in the bakery. i want to make a summer cake for beltane iced in green with a rainbow of flowers and butterflies. i also think an orange cake with autumn leaves and bats would be great. worth doing for a special occasion

stainless steel straws
i think this is a brilliant idea. you use steel forks and spoons, who says straws should be plastic and disposable? i expect a rinse in hot water would be fine if you've been drinking clear liquids. they're dishwasher safe if you've been sucking up milkshakes or similar. they come with a pipecleaner too. if you could find thin enough piping in a hardwear store you could just have them cut it to the lengths you want and file the edges smooth. also, hot liquids wont melt scary chemicals into your drink.

reusable sandwich bags
these come in zipper, fold-lock, and velcro closures, in all different colours and styles and sizes. obviously they wouldn't work for everything but you can still cut out a large chunk of disposibles with these. i fid that quality reusables are not just eco-friendly, but also much more pleasant to use, don't you? i often wonder how we were convinced to use throw-away items in the first place.

fire bowls
i'm currently putting one of these together but you can also buy them premade. it's a little personal fireplace! putting one on the balcony for chilly evenings and/or impromptu toasting of food on sticks. it's really just a nice heat-resistant bowl filled with sand or salt and rocks to somewhat hide the reservoir of chafing dish fuel. the bowl i bought was a touch too small for the standard cans of fuel but i do love it so i may just find a smaller reservoir. i was planning on refilling it from the bottles of liquid anyways. i'll try to put up a simple tutorial when mine's done.

hand knit clothes or accessories
this is a pretty broad category, i know. most of us have only experienced hand knit in the form of ugly gramma sweaters, stay with me here. first, if you have a gramma who wants to knit you things you should totally take her up on the offer! tell her the colours and styles you like, if you prefer bulky fluffy yarn or slinky smooth stuff. let her take measurements. leaf through her patterns. she has the skills and wants to make you something you'll like, just give her direction. if you do not know anyone who knits, and don't want to take up the addiction yourself, i suggest you get acquainted with etsy. hand crafted knits are nothing like storebought. you can feel the quality and care woven into every fiber. they're fully customized by shape, size, colour, style, material, and everything else about them. it's hard to explain just how lovely they are. buy a nice pair of hand knit socks or something and you'll see what i mean. it's like comparing home made foccacia with wonderbread. they're both labeled bread, and there the similarity ends. you can often find these things at farmer's markets.

custom made clothing
make friends with your local tailors and seamstresses! if you're involved with theatre people or performers of any kind they probably have contacts you can use. so do those lovely people at the farmer's market who are selling knits. ask around on facebook. chances are you know someone who knows someone who sews. being able to get things that fit perfectly for a reasonable price is a wonderful thing. you can also use etsy's alchemy feature and have one of their artists pick up your request. my experience with it has been a bit hit and miss, to be honest, and i'd rather support my friends if i can't do something myself. once you know one person who crafts they can usually point you to others who do jewelry, makeup and hair art, will make you a webpage, or whatever else your heart desires. believe me, you want to have creative people in your life and support their endeavors.

pretty serving dishes
i don't know if i'll ever be able to afford a full set of hand thrown, custom painted, wood-kiln fired dishes. if i had them i might be scared to use them. i can afford to add little pretty pieces here and there that work together and with the rest of my stuff. olive platter made from a melted wine bottle? yes please! sugar bowl with a little frog for a handle? absolutely! i think we need little touches of fun and beauty in our homes. and for the love of god do not put them in a glass cabinet and never use them, what on earth good is that? use the good dishes! they were designed to be handled and loved. buying them online will run you a pretty penny in shipping cause them things are heavy. small art galleries and farmer's markets are a better bet

nice journals and notebooks
do you keep a brain-in-a-book? i do. everything from to-do lists and budgets to drawings and journal entries. receipts and money and pamphlets get shoved in. i always have a nice pen. if it falls open it will explode. i try to buy or make nice ones. i should really invest more in them since i'm never seen without it. one of these days i'll learn to bind books myself and not worry about them being too pricey. in the mean time it's a nice indulgence. one of those little gifts to myself so that i can enjoy the things i handle and rely on daily. i've been meaning to get another cartridge fountain pen to go with a nice hand bound book. i love dip pens to pieces but they're not very portable.

i've been trying to bring cloaks back into fashion for years. they're wonderfully multipurpose, as warm or cool as you like, go with everything, are super easy to make, what's not to like!? be careful not to get ripped off buying these. you should be mostly paying for fabric quality. it is a ton of fabric, but it only takes a few hours to put one together so don't let someone charge you $150 for labor or something (unless they hand-sewed the whole monster because fun fur wont fit in the machine, but i'm nuts like that). next one i make needs to have pockets on the inside. they're much more comfy with either several clasps or one big toggle-style one. the little pretty ones tend to slide backwards and choke you.

gladiator sandals
i'm still trying to break mine in but these are a great example of simple technology that needs no improvement. they last for ages, are really comfy once the leather is broken in, and can be tied many ways. unisex and functional, these go from hiking in the woods to a semi-formal wedding with no trouble. lets see your heels do that!

hair sticks and french combs
this is mostly for those with long hair. you can keep your bobby pins and elastics and claw clips. if you want a versatile hair accessory that is comfortable and simple, wont fall apart or wreck your hair, than look for really old school stuff. you need to get a feel for the physics involved. both use your hair's own resistance and you twist before pinning. here and here are good places to start. get the hang of it with cheepy ones from the dollar store and then invest in a few pretty pieces. the nice part about them being simple is they can be made of lots of different materials and be as ornate or simple as you like. i'm fond of pretty wood and/or copper.

btw, none of these people are paying me in any way. i just like their stuff. so what interesting and hard to find stuff are you in love with? i think we all need a little affordable indulgence in our lives.