Friday, December 6, 2013

Goodbye DIY

Thanks for reading this blog everyone!

I am going to leave several of my favorite posts up, but will be cleaning out the older posts (in progress) and will no longer be writing here at BaltimoreDIY.

Soon I will be moving to Kentucky with the famous Chicken Man to start the next chapter of our lives. We actually use the blog post to remember our anniversary date. I hope to start a blog to document our journey to Kentucky.

I came to Baltimore almost exactly seven years ago to join family and friends. During my time here, I wanted to make my life a little more meaningful. I started this blog as a way to document some of my crafting and gardening projects. The projects grew and grew until they became a huge part of my life.

Thanks so much for reading.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Getting Started: Year #3 at Boone Street

This past Sunday, February 10th, we had our first volunteer day to get started for the 2013 growing season. I can't believe we are already at year #3!

It's been a long, interesting road learning how to grow on a large scale, getting started with the Farm Alliance of Baltimore, coordinating volunteers and community programming, being visited by many neighborhood kids, writing grants, and maintaining  community relations, but here we are!

I didn't take any photos on Sunday, but thought I would re-post a few photos from past years. The top photo is a memorial to our sign that Cheryl coordinated our first year, which was created by our five YouthWorks employees, five teenage girls who were employed by Baltimore City to help us out on the farm. Sadly, the sign was vandalized about six months ago, so we repainted over the blue interior and will have a new sign soon.

The photo below shows our first work day in March 2011! Special thanks to the Greater Greenmount Community Association for their partnership on that first day and over the years.

If you would like to see more photos of Boone Street, here is a link to a Google photo album with photos from the blog over the past year. I hope to have improved photo albums on the website soon. I also apologize for all of the missing photos on this blog, I am having some issues with Blogger and hope to be fixing it soon.

Here is a photo from one of our first volunteer days from year #2.

By year two, we were able to triple our profits from $1000 to $3000. We grew over 1000 pounds of produce in our second year. Another blog improvement I hope to make soon is a separate page for Year 1 and Year 2 at the garden, and a list of our accomplishments and challenges each year.

This note we found last year written on a sign next to the garden is a positive memory!

And now, Year #3!

Top Three Favorite Moments from this past Sunday, 2/10:

1. High School Volunteers

Two high schoolers from DC volunteered at the farm for a whole six hours! They volunteered as part of an assignment from their science class. They helped us plant seeds in seedling trays, pick up trash, planted about 60 feet of peas, and grab a bunch of bricks from a nearby block of demolished houses. One of the students was from Rome, and was excited to have our number #1 volunteer Brian teach him how to play football.

2. A Visit From Former Homeowners

A nearby church, St. Ann's, has several congregants who used to live in the East Baltimore - Midway neighborhood, including some who used to live on the block where the farm and garden are now located. A couple stopped by on Sunday to visit the old site of the husband's home. The marble step of the home is still in the ground. Mr. Jonathan's garden bed is now located where his mother's old flower bed and their garage used to be. It was wonderful speaking to them about what the block used to be like back in the day, and we hope to capture their oral history soon! They pointed to the home shown below, which had the back of the house collapse, and remembered how immaculate it's former owner kept the house. One interesting fact they told us: the first African American pilot shot down and captured as a POW in Vietnam grew up on the community garden side of the block.

3. Visits from Friends and Supporters

Mr. Jonathan was there battling away with the vicious bermuda grass, even going so far as to dig a trench all the way around his bed. He is a very experienced and determined gardener, and I hope to get some photos of his bed and composting methods, and to do an interview with him soon. His garlic and green onions are peeping out of the ground, and I'm really excited to see his ginger grow.

Brian, Ferb, and Kamera, some of our frequent young visitors showed up to visit and lend a hand. Brian was a real champion helping us move bricks from the demolished houses, and had fun teaching Francisco how to play football. Even Kamera helped me fill seedlings trays with compost, although she couldn't resist squishing her fingers into each cell packed with with soil, so we had to keep refilling the trays! She and Ferb found a lot of worms to play with.

Ms. Katia, a local homeowner, carted many carloads of bricks from nearby demolished houses so that we can use them at the garden. She has been a great supporter of the garden and has donated many fruit trees, grape vines, and perennial shrubs, as well as the funding we needed to pay for city water access last year. If you are on our email list or Facebook page you saw the recent link we posted of the house that she has available for rent. The photo gallery of the house includes photos of the garden.

Marie, a graduate student from Johns Hopkins, stopped by to talk to neighbors about doing an interview for a study about community perceptions of urban farms. It was great to see her, especially as we are going through some growing pains this year as pass the honeymoon phase and are beginning to work out how this project fits into the long term vision of the neighborhood.

We look forward to engaging even more volunteers and supporters this year.

Thank you to everyone who read this very long post!

We hope this gives all of you readers a picture of what is going on at Boone Street Farm and Community Garden as we get started for year #3.

If you would like to get involved, please email us at to get on our email list, follow us on Facebook, or come to our next volunteer day this SATURDAY, February 16th from 10 am to 3 pm.

See you Saturday!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pickles & Upcoming January Events

Boone Street Farm pickles are now on display at our friend Dane's new coffeeshop located at 34 Lanvale Street.

It's the perfect spot to grab a pastry, a hardboiled egg, and a cup of really great coffee while you're waiting for the Bolt bus, taking a train, going to a show at Metro gallery, or watching a movie at the Charles. It's an absolutely beautiful and bright little cafe, and will be focusing on local foods.

All produce in the canned goods grown at the garden over the summer: pickled okra, pickled green beans, and a sour & hot green tomato relish that goes great on a cheesy quesadilla or with tortilla chips. You can even get some super local eggs that Dane is making into an amazingly simple egg salad, with thyme and a little bit of very good mayo.

Other updates from the farm in late January?

It's still grant writing and crop planning time! More info to come soon about the plants that we are excited about growing, how you can sign up to purchase Boone Street produce, and more.

Don't forget to check out these upcoming events:

CGRN Summit

Baltimore's best community gardening resource hosts its annual summit to plan for 2013! CGRN was essential for us, they gave the first $1000 grant to Boone Street Farm so that we could purchase compost, seeds, and tools. I don't know what gardening would be in this city without this organization. Can't wait to attend.

January 31, 2013 — 6:00pm - 8:30pm
Location: 2640 Space, 2640 St. Paul St., Baltimore, MD 21218
For more information or to RSVP, please contact Anna Evans-Goldstein at or (410) 448-5663 ext 128.

Greening University

Event Description: Workshops and resources detailing the best practices for gardening and managing open spaces, led by Baltimore’s premier gardening experts!

Keynote Speaker: Beth Strommen, Director of the Baltimore Office of Sustainability

Audience: This event is for Novice & Experienced Gardeners, Community Leaders and Community Professionals.

Fee: $1 to $3 donation requested.

Course options will include:
  1. Beekeeping & Animal Husbandry
  2. Fruit Trees 101
  3. Large-Scale Gardening (farming)
  4. Gardening With Kids
  5. Cooking Good Food from Easy Veggies
  6. Laws and the Land: What you might want to know
  7. Get Started with Power in Dirt-Land and Neighbors
  8. Stormwater Management for Community Green Spaces
  9. Just Starting? You Need Site Evaluation
  10. Ask the Experts
Levering Hall (on the West side of Campus)
Johns Hopkins University Homewood Campus
3400 North Charles Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21218

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Getting Ready for Gardening 2013

Getting ready for gardening 2013!

It's January and the seed catalogs have arrived. Yesterday we met with some of our main community gardeners to pick out seeds and discuss plans for next year. The main two requests: a fence for the garden and more space to garden. We made a list of seeds to get, and it seems that red potatoes, tomatoes, spinach and peppers are popular.

Ms. Vera checking out the Baker Creek heirloom seed catalog. Definitely one of my favorite catalogs for sure.

Everyone was in the Ravens spirit! Seriously every single person we saw was on their way to watch the game. Caw!

During the month of January Cheryl and I are busy writing grants, organizing our crop plans, purchasing seeds, and cleaning up our storage areas for next year.

In February we will be busy doing a variety of construction projects at the farm, such as putting doors on our hoop house, a roof and rainwater catchment system on the storage shed, and building anther community garden and a children's garden.

This spring we hope to partner with Cecil Kirk Elementary School to host a weekly after school garden program, so we are also planning for that partnership.

Our work is certainly cut out for us! If you would like to stop by the farm or volunteer, please send me an email at and I will add you to our email list.

Thanks everyone, and happy garden planning!

p.s. Apologies for the missing photos on this blog. I am having an issue with my photo albums in Google, and have not yet had the time to fix it. A dream of mine is getting a better website up and running before spring, we will see if I can get it done! Thanks so much for reading.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Urban Biodiversity in Okra

Recently two amazing Baltimore organizations, Blue Water Baltimore and Power in Dirt posted articles about biodiversity, the urban environment, and our foodsystems.

What does okra have to do with biodiversity? A hint is in the photo above. Can you find the nearly six inch long praying mantis we found this summer on our okra? It's in the middle of the photo. I can't remember the last time I saw one in the city, much less such a big one.

It's commonly know that it's hard to have biodiversity when you need to grow thousands of acres of corn. This article posted by Blue Water Baltimore and written by Robert Krulwich, Cornstalks Everywhere But Nothing Else, Not Even a Bee, describes a project by "David Liittschwager, a portrait photographer, who spent a few years traveling the world, dropping one-cubic-foot metal frames into gardens, streams, parks, forests, oceans, and then photographing whatever, or whoever came through."

By the end of the article we learn that the one cubic foot of a commercial corn field is essentially denuded of any life. Sounds a lot like the empty houses filled with trash, wild cats, and virginia creeper we see around Baltimore.

We see a majority of the same five or ten creatures around most cities: crows, pigeons, sparrows, starling, cats, rats, and maybe a few feral raccoons or bats. Same with plants: grass, virginia creeper, ghetto palm (ailanthus), and that other broad leafed ghetto palm whose name I can't recall.

The article posted by Power in Dirt, The Wild Life of American Cities, confirmed this limited variety of urban life. Baltimore even gets a shoutout, and I found out our city is going to be in a study about this very issue:

"Places like Baltimore, Minneapolis and Phoenix appear to be becoming more like one another ecologically than they are like the wild environments around them. Groffman and Hall are currently part of a huge, four-year project financed by the National Science Foundation to compare urban ecology in six major urban centers — Boston, Baltimore, Minneapolis, Miami, Phoenix and Los Angeles. The purpose of the study is to determine how much cities are homogenizing and to create a portrait of the continentwide implications of individual decisions we make about our backyards."

I love that last part about the individual decisions we make about our backyards. Which brings us back to the okra.

This past summer we noticed a great deal of insect life, particularly on the okra. Before okra becomes the pod that is eaten, it is a large, beautiful flower that looks like hibiscus.

The bees and other pollinating insects absolutely love the open flowers, which bloomed from July until early November.

In addition to the giant praying mantis, we had another really cool find in the okra: a caterpillar covered with parasitic wasp eggs! Wikipedia can explain more about parasitoid wasps.

The white things you see in the photo below are the wasp eggs, which the wasp lays on the back of a caterpillar. When they are born, the wasp larvae eat their host and then emerge to eat nectar as adults before spinning a cocoon and re-starting the cycle.

Parasitic wasps are something that any organic gardener wants to encourage in the garden as part of a natural pest control program. The tomato hornworm will eat your tomato plants and other nightshades, and can only be controlled by laborious hand-picking or spraying with pesticides. This way, the wasp does the pest control for you!

Our third interesting predator find was this giant garden spider! This is not my photo, but hopefully Cheryl can send me a photo soon. It hadn't made a web when we found it, but the spider is a big one, probably two or three inches. The kids who visit us at the garden were definitely excited to find it.
Interesting fact: Cheryl and I were told by a gardener at Herring Run Nursery that we should leave the whole okra stalks in the garden in case predators laid their eggs in the stalks. So don't chip up or remove those okra stalks if you can help it. We did cut the stalks down with a saw to clean the garden for winter, but left them in a pile in case any predators will be hatching in spring.
(Photo borrowed from another source, link unknown.)
 And of course, okra aren't only good for biodiversity. Can't wait to crack open these pickles at the Greater Greenmount Community Association holiday party next week!


Monday, October 8, 2012

Block Party!

Community gardener Jonathan showing off his zinnias. Check out another gardener's Hopi blue corn in the background!

Boone Street Block Party 2012!

Thank you so  much to everyone who came out to the Boone Street block party, and especially to all of the volunteers who helped cook, serve food, set up and break down, and otherwise help us coordinate! It was so amazing to see family members and loved ones chatting with Boone Street neighbors, Farm Alliance friends, and more. The event was a dream come true and a great way to celebrate our second year at the garden. 

Check out our Facebook page or Picasa album for a full look at all of the photos! 

We had tons of barbeque with all the regular hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken, and sausage, plus some healthier foods such as Cheryl's homemade potato salad and swiss chard greens, and a very large veggie chili pie I made using Boone Street tomatoes, peppers, and black eyed peas. Yum!

Lots of kid's activities too, including face painting! Check out this amazing handiwork.

Baltimore Showstoppers Marchign Band was a great hit! Photos don't do it justice, I hope to have a video posted soon! The band really brought the crowds. 

Frequent visitor to the garden, Kirby, poses for the camera!

My man Lee brought a rabbit and two chickens for a petting zoo! The chickens are behind the wire in the shed, but we let the rabbit hop around in a little hay bale corral.

At the end of the night we had popcorn and played a short video made by Cheryl's friends about the garden, and another stop motion animation film about being outdoors. The video was another great look back at the past year, and we can't wait to show it to you all. Stay tuned for the release in about a month!

We had so much fun at the party! Thanks again everyone. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

WYPR Radio Story on Urban Livestock

Tom Pelton published a radio story today about people who raise urban livestock in Baltimore City, and the city's increasing efforts to make it easier for people to raise animals for pleasure, fresh food, and valuable animal products.

"Amid the rowhouses, graffiti and vacant lots of Baltimore, 10 farms have opened in recent years, growing vegetables and breeding chickens, rabbits and goats. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's administration is relaxing the city's livestock regulations to try to encourage more urban farms, which provide fresh food and an enhanced quality of life to the city." - WYPR


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