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Month: May, 2007

Quiet Revolution

by Scott Smith

Pulled from an extensive overview of urban agriculture written way back in 2002…

“There is a quiet revolution stirring in our food system. It is not happening so much on the distant farms that still provide us with the majority of our food; it is happening in cities, neighborhoods, and towns. It has evolved out of the basic need that every person has to know their food, and to have some sense of control over its safety and security. It is a revolution that is providing poor people with an important safety net where they can grow some nourishment and income for themselves and their families. And it is providing an oasis for the human spirit where urban people can gather, preserve something of their culture through native seeds and foods, and teach their children about food and the earth. The revolution is taking place in small gardens, under railroad tracks and power lines, on rooftops, at farmers’ markets, and in the most unlikely of places. It is a movement that has the potential to address a multitude of issues: economic, environmental, personal health, and cultural.”[1]

Michael Ableman

The security that is discussed is not about the intentional contamination of food supplies but the security that comes from having control over and access to nutritious foods and the empowerment that comes from that control, especially for the poor or the ‘food insecure.’
Community Food Security Coalition

Tufted Titmouse

by Scott Smith

I finally know what my ‘nuthatches’ are. They are Tufted Titmice.

After a renewed attempt to protect the babies from my dogs I sat to make sure the mama bird could get into her nest to feed her babies until she came back. I’m sad to say that my other attempts to protect the birds were less than successful, although the Tufted Titmouse has many predators and I couldn’t say for certain that my dogs are responsible. Two babies remain and I have made it so that it will be ‘uncomfortable’ for my dogs to continue their harassment of the birds.

Tufted Titmouse

Here’s an interesting fact: The Tufted Titmouse is protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act even though it is generally NOT a migratory bird (unless I misunderstand the definition of ‘migratory’). Individual birds tend to live out their short (about 2 years) lives within a couple of miles of their birth place. Fortunately the act doesn’t seem to cover unintended damage by pets, only the pursuit, hunting, taking, capturing or killing; attempting to take, capture or kill; possessing, offering to or sell, barter, purchase, deliver or cause to be shipped, exported, imported, transported, carried or received any migratory bird, part, nest, egg or product, manufactured or not.

Yet another interesting fact is that the Tufted Titmouse typically has two sets of babies each season. I really just hope that they are smart enough to move to a new nesting site before they have the next set.

Migratory Bird Treaty Act
Expansion of Territory
Field Guide to Birds of North America

The Cottage Garden: Another Argument for the Practicality of Growing Your Own

by Scott Smith

Rebecca’s comment on her garden being small and close to the house reminded me of the whole premise of what is popularly called a Cottage Garden. The cottage garden style has had a rise in popularity over my life time, but I’m not sure how many people who use this style around their homes really make their gardens working gardens.
tangerine pimiento zapotec pleated
I found this great article on the working or cottage garden which explains some of the history and lists plants that are considered “appropriate” cottage garden plants. I will just say that traditionally the cottage garden has been used for food production as well as for providing the family with medicinal herbs. A modern gardener could start by planting a ‘Zapotec Pleated’ or a ‘Tangerine Pimiento’ amongst their perennials and it would be quite beautiful. You could also edge a border in leaf lettuces which come in a lot of lovely shades of red and green.

One tomato plant wouldn’t feed your family for the year or anything but a well chosen heirloom variety could show you what a tomato is really supposed to taste like and make a convincing argument for expansion next year.

Gardening in the City

by Scott Smith

I’ve been thinking about something Celeste said about how most people live in the city and don’t have access to a space in which to garden and provide some of their own food which made me think of Lacy and her guerrilla gardening. She and her neighbor took over a 12 X 12 spot in a HUGE median strip where they grew lettuces and broccoli amongst the perennials and annuals that helped to satisfy local code. Now, imagine if they had filled that entire median with greens. It might be enough for the neighborhood. The neighborhood would be eating fresher (therefore more nutritious) food and a lot of natural resources would be saved by avoiding centralized planting and transporting of the food. If all the medians in that particular town were used for food production who knows how many people could be fed or how many natural resources could be saved?

Lacy's Guerilla Garden

Now, I know, that area actually looks fairly suburban and suburbanites tend to at least have backyards, so how about a truly downtown-big-city example? How about Hong Kong?

Organic garden in Hong Kong

Currently in Hong Kong there are many promoters of “urban gardening.” Arthur van Langenberg (pictured above) wrote a book called Urban Gardening ([possibly] where the term was coined). Everything you see in that picture has been grown on top of a concrete slab that has been filled in with soil. van Langenberg is even able to grow his own fruit trees in large troughs. The idea of urban gardening has caught on so well in a city filled with people who remember what it was like to have a backyard that architects are starting to incorporate places for plants into their blueprints. They are finding that when people plant their balconies chock full it is actually cooling the inside of their homes which means fewer resources used to keep their homes cool in Hong Kong’s tropical climate which equals an economic savings on top of the lower impact on the environment.

So, I really do think that if enough people started growing their own food, even in the city, trading surplus with neighbors and visiting farmers markets it could be a huge step to decentralizing our food system. And hey, if you need patriotism as an excuse, think how much harder it would be for the terrorists to contaminate our entire food system if it’s not all in one place.


A few examples of big city farmers markets:
Metro New York.
Los Angeles

Baby Birds

by Scott Smith

I went to check on the baby robins yesterday and found that all three had died in the nest. I don’t know what happened to them; they looked like they were asleep at first. There were a lot of ants in the nest which I assumed happened after the birds died but I wonder if its possible that the ants killed the babies. I noticed an ant hill under the tree and didn’t think anything of it before. I can only find information on fire ants (which I don’t think are in Michigan) killing nesting birds though so I don’t know.

Anyone else know?

First Cut

by Scott Smith


by Scott Smith

We have lots of baby birds! I’m sure that there are even more that I don’t know about considering how wild some areas of our property are.

We have the hideously cute baby robins…

And the nuthatches (I think) that Meg won’t leave alone…

And here is my attempt to keep Meg from killing the birds and/or the tree…

We be rolling again

by Scott Smith

The Craftsman garden tractor (thanks PB!) has a new tire on the old rim. Bought the tire at the pitiful Family Farm store in Battle Creek, and then had it mounted on the rim at Discount Tire in Richland. The Discount Tire guy did mention they sold those tires. Next time, I’ll save time and money.

Taking off the rim wasn’t much trouble at all. It doesn’t use lug nuts, but a key and pin deal. My father, Robinson’s father and the Sears manual all said not to loose the key. I left the key in place on the axle. I came back to find my key gone. Apparently, one of the chickens pecked at it. I found it not too far from the Craftsman. Some how I should have known not to leave it on the axle.

Not much more mowing was done. A storm rolled in.

This morning, feeling pretty good about things, Laura and I walked the dogs together. Upon our return, we heard the well pump running. The motor’s sound was higher. I didn’t think much of it and ran an errand. I came back and it was still running.

No water.

Yin-yang thing — Karmic balance: working garden tractor – non-functioning well.

Jetta with a scoop?

by Scott Smith

Via Boing Boing

Model T to Tractor

Today is a day to remember

by Scott Smith

Nothing remarkable happened, but everything was remarkable. Does that make sense? Maybe a little?

Pollock and Meg spent most of the day in the pasture; I vacuumed and swept the floors before Coleman’s friend arrived for the Human Sacrifice birthday party; we BBQed burgers and sausages; the boys played outside for a couple of hours; I burned fallen trees; Madel ran a mile.

The boys play reminded me of my days in southern California in the late 70’s. Tim, Troy (both red-headed boys, btw) and me playing football. We had elaborate rules to make things fair — Tim had broken his hip as a kid and Troy was short for his age.

Sometimes, I worry about the boy and his relationship with other boys. I have accepted that play-time is arranged by adults. Children seem to accept this anomaly as well. Also, I worry about his alone time. It seems to require a computer or game console.

If I didn’t play with friends, I threw a tennis ball against the garage door. Not just that I had a story to go along with it. I was the pitcher and Reggie Jackson or Joe Rudi was at the plate. Or, I practiced my hook shot in the backyard on a court my father built, which is something Coleman won’t see unless my father returns to Hickory Corners to install the court.

Watching Coleman run around the backyard with his friend made me feel it has all been worth the effort and the struggle. I wouldn’t trade today for a winning Lotto ticket or a full-tank of gas (which ever is more).

Happy birthday, old man.