Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mung Beans!

Quart of mung beans, anyone?

A few weeks ago I got some delicious mung bean sprouts from Lotte Plaza in Ellicott City. And, in the spirit of DIY, decided then to sprout my own.

Now that I'm trying to eat a little more seasonally, I'm realizing that March is a pretty terrible time for fresh vegetables. All of the winter stores of cabbage, carrots, and the like are starting to run out, canned veggies are getting old, but nothing fresh has come out of the ground yet. Hence, some fresh sprouts!

And now I have a quart of them. I thought I could share with friends, but my sprouts don't taste quite as good as the store-bought kind for some reason...

As you can see, I have a ton of green hulls from the outside of the bean, which I tried to skim out and add to my compost heap. I'm not sure if it's because of the hulls mixed in or not, but my sprouts are definitely not as sweet as the store-bought kind.

Also, I think I let the beans sprout a day too long- there are long strings of roots at the end, which add a terrible texture.

Ah well, the experiment was fun. For now I'm just going to saute the sprouts with soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, and garlic, and make the best of it. But I'll probably have to take a break from sprouts for a while after this!

*P.S. Thanks to anyone who managed to slog through my crazy long post yesterday! Just had to pour all my thoughts out there...

Monday, March 30, 2009

City from Below

*Interior of St. John's Church at 2640 St. Paul.*

Whew- what a weekend! Not only did yours truly have a logo to design for the imaginary "Museum of Transportation", plus work and class on Saturday, it was City from Below this weekend!

Update A live blog of the event was created here: http://cityfrombelow.org/liveblog

I only managed to attend for an hour on Saturday, but on Sunday I headed over to breakfast, ended up getting sucked in to the energy of the event, and didn't come out of there until 6 pm! I was a little disappointed that the breakfast at Participation Park community garden got rained out (o.k., misted and fogged out), but I was glad for the chance to see the Cork Gallery for the first time, and I'll admit that the yogurt, granola, coffee, and bagels tasted much better in the cozy warmth of the rehabbed warehouse, with our beautiful city spread out below.

2640 was an incredible venue as usual, and there was a hive of activities going on all throughout that beautiful bombed-out church, from panel discussions in the huge Clark room to smaller talks and break-out sessions in the Sunday room, plus events were being held up the street at the Village Learning Place in Charles Village. (I didn't even manage to make it out to the VLP!) Thanks of course to the dedicated volunteer staff from 2640 and Red Emma's who set up the event, worked sound, set up concessions of food, and in general GOT IT DONE! (Yours truly did her own part and helped sweep and mop the floor on Sunday evening :) ).

I forced myself to break out of the shy shell, and introduced myself to a lot of really interesting folks (one of whom went to the same elementary school as me for a bit! Ah Smalltimore..) I talked to university students, urban gardeners from out of town, city workers, local artists and activists, and hip-hop kids just interested in getting involved... There were even people from Vancouver there, which was amazing to me, but they seemed to take their far travels in stride. I was so proud that they would travel all this way to this event! More observations on the general crowd are below...

Posting all of my thoughts would take hours (and I'm sneaking these words in while I'm on the clock!), so I am planning on breaking my observations up into groups. For anyone interested in more articles about the event, there was a ton of video and sound being recorded, and I know Indymedia is planning on making a national issue about the event, so there is definitely a lot more information out there!

Before delving into the specifics of the events I attended, I'd love to outline some general thoughts...

* As usual, there was definitely a dearth of participation from minority, poor, disabled, elderly, and other forgotten segments of the population. This happens at a lot of social justice events, as was pointed out by person or two. I don't think this is anyone's fault. I think that this lack of participation is likely caused by a lack of outreach and connections between the activist community and these minority populations.

I think that's why I like working with 2640 so much, where political liberals, the homeless, and church-going folk can all come together in the same building. We don't all have to work on the same issues together all the time, but we're all connected in some way. It's actually quite metaphorically represented in the way the church building is spatially divided and shared between all of the groups.

* One presenter from "Take Back the Land" (in Miami, I think?) mentioned the divide between "college educated community organizers" and grassroots leaders from within the community. I was captivated by the many tangles of this. Of course I don't think it's a negative thing for people to want to get involved in social justice, but I do think it is important to be aware of the weight of someone coming from any outside community to "solve" the problems of a community.

Of course, getting involved isn't just about reaching out to struggling communities. Driving to my parent's house in the suburbs on Sunday night, I thought about myself in my high school days, and how easy it is for people in relatively safe, well-off communities to get trapped in a bubble. (Whether this is from having basic hunger and shelter needs met, or from living in areas where there is relatively little community interaction, or a combination of factors, I don't know).

But in any case, I'd love to see more outreach in general beyond the usual social justice crowd. I would have loved a breakout session where we could discuss this issue in small groups!

*On another introspective note, I reacted most strongly towards presentations about specific examples of enacting change. It's really easy to talk about the housing crisis, or inequalities in our social structure. Thanks, we all know that, it's why we're here. The crowd will cheer you, because it's what they want to hear, but you're not really helping the movement. Talk to me about real examples of problem-solving!

I want to know about exactly HOW you reached out to the the workers at Camden Yards, or the people having their homes foreclosed on, or the art community in your area. I think that's why I love permaculture so much, because it isn't just about the idea of sustainability, it's about the tangible objects, the rainbarrels, the compost, the solar ovens, the native species, etc.

And let's celebrate the successes that we've made, as much as we talk about the failures of society. Just the fact that an event like City from Below can happen shows that we live in a pretty great world. (Sorry if that sounds like Polly Anna, but that's the way I see it.)

So, hi to all of the great people I met who are involved in everything from housing struggles to urban farming to grassroots labor struggles to university theses on policy and theoretical power struggles. Thanks to the volunteers, and to everyone who came out on a rainy weekend to GET INVOLVED.

Even if most of the discussions basically told me what I already know, I came out of the sessions with new friends and a renewed faith in doing simple actions to create change.

My plan now? Help everyone I know to buy a commuter cup instead of using disposable. Reach out in a positive way to others in my community, from calling my grandma just to say hi to picking up a piece of trash on someone's else's curb. Water my lettuce and compost my tea bags and banana peels (and hopefully get some people in my office to compost?! Maybe?!) And, I'll try not to get to preachy. Because I know that even a puppy mill owner who is proud of what they do is somehow less annoying than a self-righteous activist.

Stay tuned for future posts about some of the conference discussions:

*If we controlled the future, what would it look like?

*Report on the forum with United Workers (uniting the Camden Yark workers for a fair wage), Take Back the Land (a group struggling to take back foreclosed homes in Florida), and Picture the Homeless (from NYC)

*Notes from a discussion among urban gardeners about various issues like land ownership and toxic soil (I really want to visit Landslide in PA now!)

*I'd love to do some research in connection to a talk that referenced moveable carts! They are mobile, which means they are perfect for connecting to tons of people within a community, and can be modified to be anything from portable art to fresh produce carts to solar energy modules! I have a new fascination...

Were you at the conference or want to know more about it? Post a comment or send me an email! baltimorediy@gmail.com

Thursday, March 26, 2009


This recent tweet by @permiedotnet connected to a link for a mushroom workshop that looks amazing: http://www.livingmandala.com/Living_Mandala/Course_Workshops_and_Events.html Too bad I don't live in California! The concept of bioremediation is fascinating, and mushrooms in general are an essential part of breaking down woody pulp. It's really fun thinking about how fungi is structured versus the usual seed-sprout-plant-fruit process. Plus I love learning about all of the different varieties- I feel like some kid from the 1950s who woke up one day and realized that pasta doesn't have to mean just spaghetti or macaroni! The world of mushrooms is definitely exotic and strange. I feel like a little forest sprite just looking at pictures!

So I've been contemplating getting a mushroom kit. Inoculating a log with spores would be an incredible experiment, but I don't really have the time or the space. I guess I'll have to settle with a pre-made indoor kit for now. At least the compost left over when the mushrooms have stopped fruiting is really great for plants! And perhaps I can learn how to keep the kit continuously producing... Maybe I can dump the compost in my parent's backyard and something will come up in the future.

I'm not even sure if I've ever had a really "fresh" mushroom. Considering that they are so fragile and perishable, I bet it's a completely different taste experience. And they add such a great "meaty" texture to everything from stir-fry to pasta to omelets, and are full of fiber and other essential vitamins and minerals.

I just can't decide what kind to get! I found a kit with half portobellos and half white button mushrooms, which are my favorite. The mushrooms are classic, have a great thick texture and clean taste, compared to other mushrooms that might be "earthier" tasting or have a more complicated texture. Oyster mushrooms are great as well. (And you can even grow some on old coffee grounds! Check out the insane variety of kits at Fungi Perfecti: http://www.fungi.com/kits/indoor.html So many to choose from!! And sadly, the button mushroom/portobello kit I saw was about twice the cost of the oyster and shitaake kits. And the reishi mushrooms are so beautiful, and can be ground up into a tea! I may wait until I am more experienced to get those, but it's a fun thought.

Anyone have any mushroom favorites? Tips or fun facts?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Eight Stone: Hot off the Press!

"Intersections" the transit-themed issue of "Smile, Hon, You're in Baltimore!" is now out!

Pick it up HERE or visit yr local zine shop! (Yay for Atomic Books) Can't wait to buy a t-shirt- photos will be posted as soon as I do!

I have to say, I really love the combination of different style and voices in this zine. Wry, honest, and as hard-boiled as our beautiful city. Whenever I have out-of-town visitors, I always hand them a copy of "Smile, Hon!" to introduce them to the "flavor" of Monument City.

Some of my favorite highlights from past issues include the cop's story where he is moonlighting as a security guard at a seedy motel, and is called to break up a domestic disturbance dispute. He opens the door expecting to save the damsel in distress, and is instead confronted by an ENORMOUS woman flinging empty liquor bottles at a cowering, naked dude, screaming "He's too high to get it up!" (Although the cop captures the tone of the dialect much better than I do- you'll have to read it to see!). I also like the stories about interactions with crazy neighbors, out-of-sorts ramblers wandering the city, and the wonderful spark of recognizing a place you've been to in town referred to in print.

disclaimer: Yours truly has published her first poem in this issue! I'm thrilled to be included among such Baltimore all-star contributors. I have to admit, I do think I'm capable of writing a stronger poem, but nonetheless, this was a great place to start. And this wheel that used to pull the streetcars up and down Paca street deserved an ode.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Mobtown Loves Motown

God is Sweet Juniper an amazing blog. A lot of the posts remind me of Baltimore (see March 13th post about "The Hole"- the blocks of bombed-out, vacant homes will look very familiar to any Bmore resident.)

Everything is so well written by the husband-and-wife team of Jim and Wood (see long extended metaphor comparing his daughter's rotting snacks behind her car seat to pruno in baby-prison!) I am frequently thrown into a jaw-dropping, green-eyed, mind-blown, near-angelically inspired Internet troller after reading.

Also, as a wide-eyed former suburbanite trying to repair the ills of this city, I can appreciate his self-deprecating references to himself as a "carpet-bagger." I will now sarcastically thank god my Dad's great-greandparents were born here so I can at least falsely claim some sort of "roots" in this town.

So, I guess I'm saying, any self-respecting urbanite with an eye on keeping it real and respecting the beauty of our post-industrial waste/wonder-lands should read this blog!

Plus, there is this great link to a camera obscura made in from the boarded up windows of a house: http://www.powerhouseproject.com/index.php?/projects/camera-obscura/

Thanks for everything Sweet Juniper! I look forward to reading more soon!


Sunday, March 15, 2009

DIY Salad Table

Since I live in an apartment with a slab of concrete for a backyard, I've been wanting to build a salad table for a long time. I've had these directions from the Maryland Cooperative Extension filed away for a while: http://www.hgic.umd.edu/_media/documents/hg601.pdf

But I don't own any tools, and didn't really feel like going out to the store for lumber, hardware, and wire mesh. So I decided to build a salad table DIY style out of an old desk drawer. There are already "drainage holes" built into the sides! The glass over the top was supposed to keep in some heat, but then found out that lettuce grows well in cold weather so I took it off. Plus, it started to drizzle a bit this weekend so I figured I might as well let the sprouts get a little water.

It's not pretty but I think it might do the trick! Hopefully I'll have a luscious photo in a month of my fresh salad!

(In case you're wondering how I'm reflected in the glass, I reused an old display case for my "greenhouse")

Baltimore Garden Days

The Growing Season is here!

The Remington Community Garden just kicked off today, and with the help of amazing neighbors and a Johns Hopkins community service fraternity, we broke a ton of ground, mixed it with composted manure, and planted sweet peas and spinach. It was kind of a rainy day, but all of the pickaxing helped us break a sweat! Can't wait for the strawberries, and the eggplant, and the zucchini... Yum! I really love the community structure of the garden, where everyone pitches in and then receives a part of the harvest. It seems much more interactive and fun than just having your own plot, and you receive just as much harvest.

Afterward I had a nice relaxing walk back to Hampden, and swung by the Mill Valley Garden Center. I think with my birthday money, I'll sign up for the One Straw CSA. Last year I decided to go to the Farmer's Market because I thought it would be easier to select exactly what I wanted, but I found it hard to wake up and get to the market before noon every week. It might actually be nice to get a bunch of vegetables that I'm not familiar with and to learn how to cook some more interesting meals.

But today I just bought some locally grown lettuce and canned dill beans, along with some helpful advice about potting soil. The woman working there was so sweet and gave me a ton of information about potting soil (which actually contains no soil at all! I feel silly for not knowing that already...) and I decided to continue potting my plants right in my vermicompost. I was worried about nutrient overload, but since my compost is pretty papery, my plants seem to be doing o.k.

Unfortunately, then I came home to check on my vermicompost, and there are almost no worms left! A few weeks ago, I checked on the worms and found them all in one corner and couldn't figure out why. I touched the compost in the bin, and it was bone dry. I was so worried about suffocating the worms with moisture, I forgot that the opposite can happen as well! I'm sad, but there was a worm or two left in there, so I poured in a bunch of water, old broccoli, and lettuce scraps, and I'm hoping my little guys come back. Fingers crossed-

Friday, March 13, 2009


So, I've recently discovered the magic of Twitter.

I get a lot of weird looks when I tell people this, and I used to be one of the doubters. At first, it seemed crazy to link in to a constant stream of short sentences. But what I've discovered is that those little lines of 140 characters are perfect for casually receiving great links from a wide variety of sources! I read a lot of links from comedians, the Onion, local zinesters, and permaculture folks, who are always posting quick tips and funny little bits that wouldn't seem to fit quite right as a blog post.

Sure, there are some of "My turkey sandwich for lunch was delicious," and maybe a few tweet-crazed folks who bombard you with endless info, but on the whole, I really appreciate being able to quickly get on a website and scan through a bunch of links and quick updates, without the bulk of Facebook or RSS feeds (which I kind of need to start though...)

One of my favorite Permaculture Twitter accounts is http://twitter.com/permiedotnet They just posted a great tip for newspaper seedling pots on their blog, and I can't wait to try it!

I've been potting a lot of seedlings since it's Springtime (almost!), and have been running out of old pots. Once I run out, it's kind of a pain to make drainage holes in a lot of my old tin cans, etc. and they are starting to take up a lot of room in my small apartment. And a big problem with starting seedlings in a pot is that you then have to dig it out and re-plant it in the ground, which disturbs the plant.

This tip solves all of these problems! I can't wait to try it. Down with plastic pots!


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