Thursday, August 6, 2009
Curious about traditional dishes withcorn fungus? What about foraging for aquatic plants that are edible and can also be used to make soap?
Seriously, can someone please let me know if glasswort grows in the Mid-Atlantic region!
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
I've been published! Thanks Arsenal Pulp Press!
Coming home last night from an evening of beers and veggie tacos, I was delighted to find a package from Canada waiting for me. Could it be... the hottest guerrilla crafting book on the market!
Thanks so much to the lovely ladies Leanne and Mandy at Arsenal Pulp Press for putting this book together. The photos look great, the pages are chock full of tips, interviews, links, and great quotes. I promise there are no other craft books like it!
Since the beginning of the handmade renaissance several years ago, there's been a lot of rebellious crafting going down. The popularity of a book named Stitch N' Bitch. Cross-stitching @#$*&^ instead of "Bless this House." Embroidering pin-up girls and martini glasses. Even making your own reusable pads and tongue-in-cheek aprons. And knit graffiti.
You'll have to read YARN BOMBING to find out the myriad reasons why and how people decide they want to start sewing fuzzy sleeves onto bike racks, or cover a tree in lace. If you've ever seen a piece of knit graffiti in person though, the instant draw is pretty obvious.
A knitted cozy on a tree, lampost, or the like is a shock of color in the otherwise common place scenery. It's a fuzzy texture against the brick and metal of the city, a bit of playfulness where you least expect it.
One of the things I love the most is that it's a reminder that it's o.k. to be silly and do weird things. Knit graffiti treats the world as a place to be shaped, to be made into something beautiful, instead of a place in which we are just some spectator.
And, along with all this other radical sewing, canning, and gardening action going on, knit graffiti is a way to subvert the seemingly tame world of home-making skills into something new and fresh again.
I live right across the street from a knit-covered tree and telephone pole, and I've seen the crowds of people stop, smile, take photos, or just plain stroke the wool on an inanimate object. It's a sweet thing to see.
I don't want to give too much away, but there are a lot of great photos and quotes from BaltimoreDIY. My project submission was for interactive, multi-media tags that other guerilla crafters could add to knit graffiti around town. Keychains, felt appliques, buttons, and screenprinted patches are all great ways to leave your mark around the city, creating an ongoing conversation in a small physical space. Sounds complicated, looks cute!
I'll wind up here and leave you with a list of good links.
Lovely Yarns my local yarn store with some great knit graffiti out front: http://lovelyarns.com/
Yarnbombing Mandy and Leanne's site: http://www.yarnbombing.com/
Knitta one of the first and most well known inspirations to the genre: http://www.knittaplease.com/ABOUT.html
Masquerade their cozy of a mooring ring on a dock inspired me to start doing knit graffiti of my own, and I am forever indebted to @heyjakesollins as usual for introducing me to the idea: http://maskerade.blogsome.com/
And the Yarn Bombing Flickr Group
Of course I'm sure there are many, many other sites and taggers that get mentioned in the book. These are just the ones that I have been personally involved with in some way.
I definitely recommend this book for everyone interested in subcultures, street art, crafting, or radical action of any kind.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
It's great to have friends at the National Wildlife Federation. After posting my query, I received a speedy reply, and promptly went to Wikipedia and Botanical.com for scientific, historical and cultural information.
Answer: It turns out this plant is Verbascum thapsus L., or Great Mullein.
Mullein has many different historic uses. The leaves and flowers are smoked or taken as a tea to relieve chest problems and as a relaxing sedative. Like many herbs, the plant contains coumarin (a blood thinner) and is said to have antibacterial properties.
Very mullein-specific uses: The huge flower stalk was often dipped in tallow and used as a torch. The hairy leaves were stuffed into shoes for warmth.
Another interesting mullein fact is that the seeds of the plant contain the chemical rotenone, and were used by Native Americans to stun fish so they could be caught. It has been used as an organic insecticide, but I believe it was recently removed from the list of approved organic pesticides because of safety concerns. More info can be found on this Cornell site.
In any case, I'm planning on collecting some dried flowers, leaves, and seedpods from these plants. I'll most likely make the leaves and flowers into a tea, since there probably isn't enough material to distill an essential oil. I could make a tincture as well, but I've decided to make more teas than tinctures, since the tincture contains a lot of grain alcohol. The flowers can also be used in an herbal smoking mix. In any case, it's fun to collect this stuff now in case I need it around, and once it's dried or preserved in alcohol, the chemical properties will keep for a little while. Yet another jar in my steadily growing herbal collection.
I saw this plant as I was biking to work today down Old Falls Road. For those of you who don't live in Baltimore, Old Falls is a kind of wooded path that runs along the Jones Falls River, although "river" is putting it nicely, as you can imagine that the area is pretty overgrown with weeds, etc.
It does have some really awesome scenery though, like the Baltimore Streetcar Museum complete with streetcars and a little track, plus the decaying Maryland & Pennsylvania station with all kinds of weird parts like old gears, wheels, and entire rotting train cars. Now I'm thinking I should post photos soon..
In any case, anyone have an idea what this thing is? This is the biggest flower stalk I have ever seen. It definitely looks like an interesting plant. I actually rode by it on my bike and turned back around to get a better look. So happy I had my camera with me so I can Twitter my question to my friend at the National Wildlife Federation (hey @wildlife_watch!)
And if any of you horticultural folk want to school me on the proper term for "flower stalk" I'd love to know that too.
Here are a few close-ups:
Just remembered that I do have one photo of train parts from Old Falls Road. This wheel used to be buried under Paca St. and was used to pull the streetcars. One of my most favorite "public statues."
Monday, August 3, 2009
Last Saturday was the annual Baltimore City Gardens potluck. It was amazing! I took a ton of photos of the War Memorial/City Hall garden which you can see below.
This was my first year attending, and I was proud to bring a dish with vegetables exclusively from the Remington garden.
It's a coconut curry with potatoes, eggplant, and green beans. All I added was the coconut milk, red chili paste, fish sauce, some veggie broth, and a little sriracha (rooster sauce) for kick. Delicious!
As I was taking this photo, Remington Garden won 2nd place in the mid-size Baltimore Gardens contest!
Not only was the potluck a great way to celebrate community gardening, I also got to check out the plants in the War Memorial/City Hall plaza. Check out the row of corn next to the steps.
The Master Gardeners are really doing a great job, growing hundreds of pounds of produce from these tiny spaces where ornamental flowers and shrubs used to be. I am impressed!
I added the red cup for scale to show how enormous the leaves are. I could fit my fist inside one of the squash flowers, no problem. No wonder literally hundreds of pounds of produce are being delivered to city food banks from this garden!