Thursday, July 29, 2010

Quiet Time

Taking a brief peaceful hiatus from BaltimoreDIY.

Just about a week- I'm headed on vacation and have several other personal projects going on. I'll miss you all, thanks so much for reading! There will be a fermentation post up before you know it.

There are a few pints of beet-carrot-onion kraut bubbling away as we speak...

Friday, July 23, 2010

When Beans Were Bullets

I definitely need to make it down to this incredible exhibit of WWI and WWII posters about the vital need for food conservation, rationed goods, meatless and wheatless days, home gardening and canning.

It's hard for me to not look at the posters and think about our own ongoing wars and environmental struggles, and to wonder at the difference in American society.

Can't imagine the government enforcing rationing these days, or the American public volunteering to give up loaves of bread and meat... but there certainly are many of us who are getting the message anyway, even without propaganda, and have chosen to work for our food security with backyard gardens and re-learning various homegrown skills.

When Beans Were Bullets: War-Era Food Posters

1st Floor, National Agricultural Library
Beltsville, Maryland
June 21 - August 30, 2010

Visitors will enter the exhibition from NAL's Reading Room. Visitors must enter at the main entrance, sign in, and expect a guard to examine bags. Walk through the Reading Room and continue through the hallway to the exhibit area. The exhibition is free and visitor hours are 9:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. Food and beverages are not allowed.

Visit NAL's website for directions.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Marian's Artscape 2010 Photos

_MG_6972, originally uploaded by things on shelves..

Marian Glebes is the fantastic Baltimore artist who curated the Artscape exhibit that I participated in this year (and last year!).

She's posted some of her photos on a Flickr site.

They're lovely!

You can see the sprouting living room, the local food and barbeque of Matt and Dane (some of the legendary STEW cooks), art gallery bikes, miniature cityscapes, an acrylic puzzle of Baltimore's neighborhoods, the Baltimore Hostel's actual replica of a hostel room, photos, the gentleman recording radio pieces of Artscape, and of course, the BaltimoreDIY table!

As a side note, wow do I need to get a new camera. Even Nick Biddle's photos (posted on Monday)taken on his Droid turned out better than mine would have. Any recommendations for a good cheap camera? Or should I just get a Droid and call it a day?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The NEW Baltimore City Draft Zoning Code

In the name of sustainable living, I post an awful lot about growing and making your own food, with the occasional post about zines, bikes, and community activism thrown in.

But after reading the recent Urbanite article where architect Witold Rybczynski talks about urban planning, I'm realizing that city zoning codes are the hidden gears behind our daily life.

Looks like I'm going to have to do some reading on Jane Jacobs!

This realization lined up perfectly with an email that landed in my inbox a short while ago from the Baltimore Office of Sustainability.

It turns out that the city is looking for citizen involvement to help plan the new zoning codes. They posted their main objectives and are asking for comments on their new website. It's quite pretty!

The new code outlines a more transparent and predictable process – one that simplifies and clarifies. It is shorter, more readable – using plain language and defines all terms – and easier to understand.

Some of the goals include maintaining the character of local neighborhoods through architecture, improving public transportation, greener landscapes, a strong commercial area downtown, and support for mixed use spaces.

The Baltimore Sun even wrote an article that the new code could be a boon to community gardens. ("City Farms Could Flourish Under New Zoning Code")

The always informative Baltidome was way ahead of me on scooping this sustainability issue. They posted a link to a article about Tom Stosur's new plans to make Baltimore a more sustainable city.

(Tom Stosur is the director of the Baltimore City Department of Planning).

This question appears at the end of the article:

What about chickens?

The whole chicken thing is a growing issue. [As we rewrite the code] this would be the time to address that issue as well.

I'm liking the sounds of this new zoning code so far!

Here is the link if you'd like to comment on the new code.

If you'd like to attend one of the Open Houses:

Department of Planning Open House
417 East Fayette Street, 8th floor

Department of Planning Open House
417 East Fayette Street, 8th floor

To review the draft code and to comment on the zoning text, visit

Copies are also available at the reference desk in all Enoch Pratt Libraries.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Video Footage from Artscape 2010

Major thanks to Nick Biddle for shooting this video!

I was a little worried about what to include in my post-Artscape post since I didn't spend a whole lot of time taking photos. Luckily this video made for the DIY Fest website includes a great overview of all the canning, cleaning, composting, and other DIY fun that I included at my table.

Thank you so much to everyone who stopped by and said hello.

Compost Display

One of the sacks of potatoes I'm growing on my porch

Chatting it up

Soapberries and Baby Bok Choy Seeds
The baby bok choy seeds are perfect for city gardeners growing in containers, and since they are a cool weather crop it's not too late to start a small garden with them. You can start them in mid to late August. Yum!

Canning Display

A few folks even bought compost worms and were really excited about it. There were a few remarks that the last thing they had expected to buy at Artscape was worms.

There is nowhere in the city to buy red wiggler worms, which are worms that like to live in decaying material. I bought my from Uncle Jim's Worm Farm and had to have them mailed from PA. I'm inspired to possibly look into having a table at one of the farmer's markets.. we'll see.

Also thanks to Marian Glebes, curator extraordinaire of the section of Artscape where I was located.

As for more photos: someone named Matt House posted a few photos of the Hokusai-inspired Wave Ramp that my brother Elie helped build for one of the Midway exhibits:

More photos of the ramp are on Flickr. The above photo is taken from Matt House's collection.

The video should also be posted soon to

Check out the website if you're interested in hosting a workshop, having a table, and there will be future video and other content to come!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Artscape 2010

Just coming down off a whirlwind of last minute Artscape frantic-ness!

And yes, I used the same picture in my blog post last year. I just like it. If you're curious to see other photos of a past Artscape, they're on my Flickr page.

It's a picture of the Midway Bridge, where local artists set up miniature carnival booths like this one:

My table isn't on the Midway though, it's in the parking garage with other sustainability themed projects (like the Free Store.)

This year I'm adding to my display items and after many requests last year I decided to stop being shy and actually have a few things for sale:

Worm Compost How-To Instruction Pamphlet

Canning How-To and Crushed Tomato Recipe Pamphlet

All-Natural Cleaning Product Recipes Pamphlet

Homegrown Baby Bok Choy Seeds

Compost Worms and Apartment-Sized Worm Bins

Plus I'll have a display of canning supplies, a small library of urban homesteading books, and a display of various projects for learning useful skills like sewing, knitting, plant propagation, and knot tying.

Come visit my table in the parking garage across from the Charles Theater. I'll be there Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I will be excited to see you!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Free Buckets at Mill Valley!

Need empty 5 gallon buckets or other large plastic containers?

Mill Valley has tons! You could use these for planters, small worm compost bins or storing all sorts of goods from chicken feed to bulk flour. I'd love to hear some of the creative uses you all come up with!

Just head on over to 2800 Sisson St. and ask about their buckets. Tell them BaltimoreDIY sent you!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Two Firsts: Chicken Slaughter & Pressure Canning

Yesterday was one of the biggest homegrown days I've ever had. The total after seven hours of two people slaughtering, harvesting, chopping, boiling, and researching recipes and canning instructions in various books:

Five quarts of stewed chicken and about four quarts of kale. All shelf-stable and ready to store for the winter.

And not just any chicken! I won't post the gory details here, but the stewed chicken was made out of Chicken-Man's homegrown poultry.

Yesterday was the day for the roosters to go, and we needed to make room in the freezer for them. The chickens that were bought about around two months ago were "straight-run," which means that they were too young to tell the difference between male and female.

Now, weeks later, the roosters finally have pronounced combs and wattles. They need to be gotten rid of before they start to crow so we don't get busted. Also the two roosters of the same breed (Rhode Island Red, they're the little guys on the left in the photo below) are beginning to puff up at each other like they want to rumble.

And so, last night I witnessed my first chicken killing. There were three roosters in all. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, luckily Chicken-Man got it done clean and quick. The body gets dunked in hot water immediately, and it's fascinating how soon the feathers come off and all of a sudden you no longer have an animal, you've got meat. I actually only saw the first killing (the White Orpington) because I was washing the carcasses and prepping the stock while the Rhode Island Reds were killed.

To make room in the freezer we took out the chickens that were killed in the spring. (I reference the event in the Sunday section of the May 1st 2010 post.)

And wouldn't you know it, this week's CSA pickup from One Straw Farm had both onions and carrots! Essential vegetables for stock. Too bad I didn't have any leeks or celery, but onions and carrots were great. Maybe next year I will plant a little "stock garden" so I can always have ingredients for stock on hand.

And as I mentioned, fridge and freezer space are at a premium. We needed some way to store all of this stewed chicken.

After poring over the instruction manual and the Ball Blue Book guide to canning, I finally learned how to use this scary implement!

For you canning nerds, this is the All-American 15 Quart canner. I chose it because it doesn't have a rubber gasket that gets warped over time. Instead, you coat the metal to metal seal with a little Vaseline to make the seal. It fit seven quarts, and we packed it full with a little left over!

If you're curious about why you would need to pressure-can anything, I'll try to briefly explain.

Anything acidic like pickles, strawberries or other fruit jams with lemon juice, and tomato sauce are all perfectly fine to can by boiling in a water bath. Just make your food, put it in a jar, and boil. The acid prevents bad bacteria from growing as your food sits on the shelf.

But what if you want to can something like meat, soup, beans, or vegetables?

Foods that are low in acidity run a much higher risk of spoiling because they provide a hospitable environment for bacteria to grow. Boiling water doesn't reach a high enough temperature to kill the bacteria. A pressure canner works by heating the cans at a REALLY high temperature in steam heat.

Different foods need different amounts of time, but luckily stewed chicken and steamed leafy greens both needed to be cooked at 10 pounds of pressure for 90 minutes.

That's right, 90 minutes! The jars got so hot they were boiling inside for several minutes after I took them out of the canner. Take that, botulism!

The kale has been growing in the garden since late May. I've been pulling some to eat every so often, but it was getting woody and was about to be attached by harlequin beetles (I found three as I was picking the kale, and one of the leaves had a bunch of eggs on it).

Kale grows practically year round, so it seems a little silly to can kale to some people. Particularly in the south, where it never really gets that cold. But late November to early March is pretty much a dead zone in terms of local veggies, and I know I'll be happy to head to my pantry in sometime this winter and grab some of my own garden.

I'm thinking a hearty soup with the stewed chicken and stock, kale, and some potatoes will be great in the winter.

We're sending one jar of the stewed chicken to a friend for letting us visit his farm, so the homegrown food is also doubling as a nice gift.

So I managed to take the death of the chickens with delicious grace. Admittedly I'm still kind of nervous about the fate of our new American Chinchilla meat rabbits...

Friday, July 9, 2010

Repower At Home

Last week I made a small step and unplugged my fridge.

Don't get overly impressed! I am not going appliance free quite yet. But I did downgrade to a mini-fridge. Yay efficiency!

It's a little step, but it's a step. And the more people who are conscious of the energy we use, the more we can begin to reform our society into a place that isn't totally dependent on cheap energy.

And there new initiatives popping up every day encouraging people to cut out fossil fuel use in their daily lives:

Emilie Wolfson completed: Use the cold wash cycle

Keith Goodman committed to complete the action: Replace your outdated refrigerator

Ravi Garla completed: Save money with a manual thermostat

Brenna Muller created a new team, Richmond Urban Gardening Collective

Emilie Wolfson committed to complete the action: Eliminate vampire power

These quotes were taken from the Repower at Home website. The campaign is challenging Marylanders to reduce our energy use by the equivalent of one million pounds of coal by 10/10/10.

Their website lists all kinds of ways to reduce your energy needs.

If you're interested in getting involved, they’re looking for people to start teams in their communities and get the word out to friends and neighbors via the web.

Sadly there just aren't enough hours in the day for me to form one of their teams, but I am more than happy to work for their cause by promoting local and seasonal food, riding a bike, and otherwise maintaining an awareness of the role energy places in my life.

Forming community AND doing direct action to create a healthier planet?!

Now that's a society I like to live in.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Announcing the 4th Annual DIY Fest!

Planning for the 4th annual Baltimore DIY Fest has begun!

This is the festival that inspired me to label myself "BaltimoreDIY."

It's the place where I learned that there is a culture of people who like to fix, grow, recycle, and tinker to learn more about how the world works, be more economically independent, and most importantly, have fun!

The event will be taking place at 2640 St. Paul again. Save the date for October 24th.

Pictured above is the knife-making workshop from 2008.

We are currently looking for people who want to have a table or host a workshop. You can sign up over at our sweet new website:

Shout-out to Nick Biddle for setting that up.

Last year's City Paper article: ("Generation Skill").

Can't wait to hear from all of you inventive and crafty people. See you October 24th!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Latest Tony Geraci News

If you're at all interested in the Baltimore local food movement, you've probably heard the news about Tony Geraci right now.

But for those of you who haven't, I thought it would be appropriate to post the news here.

To quote yesterday's Baltimore Sun article:

The Baltimore schools' food guru, Anthony Geraci, will be scaling back his duties as director of the food and nutrition office in the coming year but plans to keep cooking up ideas to reform city students' diets.

Geraci, who in two years in the post has inspired a leaner, greener version of what appears on student lunch trays, said in an interview Tuesday that he and the school system agreed to cut his hours so that he can spend more time with his wife, who lives in New Hampshire. But he plans to continue to steer the direction of the food and nutrition office, sometimes from afar, and to promote the city's initiatives on a national scale.

Urbanite Magazine also wrote an article about the Geraci news.

But while Geraci won the adulation of the newfood crowd, what he got from the city that initially embraced him is something else entirely: a tossed salad made of red tape, croutons the size of roadblocks, and too few greens—meaning cash. His efforts to convert his locavore vision into edible reality effectively ended in late May, when the city announced that, as of July 1, he would no longer be in charge of what city school kids eat. Geraci will continue on as a city schools "food consultant," but he'll also juggle consulting gigs across the country.

The Tedx video above shows the beginning of the love affair with the local food movement in Baltimore.

But, as in every relationship, it seems that the honeymoon phase is over and now it's time to hammer out the day to day issues.

Through my work with various collectives like 2640 and The Beet Food Co-op Buying Club, I've seen the struggle it takes to get a visionary idea work on a real world level. Ideas are one thing, but permits, bank accounts, and audience response are another. I'm sure that working with an organization as large and burdened as the school system can't make visionary change any easier.

This latest news hasn't made me doubt my faith in the local food movement. Changing our consumer habits isn't going to happen overnight.

The most important thing is that we're making a step in the right direction. Let's keep heading forward.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Transition Town Workshops

As part of my ongoing search to live more sustainably, I've taken quite a few classes and workshops from the Heathcote community. Thanks for the lessons on worm composting and forest gardening!

I'm happy to publicize an announcement about more of their upcoming workshops. (click on the flyer image to enlarge)

Training for Transition Towns Workshop

When: Saturday, August 21st – Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

Where: Heathcote Community, Freeland, MD

Cost: Sliding scale $150 - $250 before Aug. 1 (meals and lodging available at extra cost)

Concerned about climate change? Worried about our nation’s fossil fuel consumption? Want to be a part of the solution and not the problem?

Then come out to the Training for Transition Town workshop!

The Transition Town movement is a direct answer to all of the issues that our country is facing, and outlines a comprehensive strategy for reducing our energy consumption and making ourselves more self-sustainable, all on the community level.

By attending this workshop you will learn about peak oil and its consequences, learn strategies for reducing your community’s energy consumption, brainstorm creative and locally relevant solutions to the current economic crisis, and – best of all – meet and network with like-minded people.

Whether you are an educator, a student, an employer, an employee, you can’t afford to miss out on the Transition Movement!

(If you can’t make this workshop, it will also be offered the following weekend, August 28th & 29th, in Washington, D.C.)

Register online here.

For more information, please contact Kat at, or Karen at

If you're too excited to wait until August for this class, you're in luck! Heathcote is also offering a free class about permaculture gardens THIS WEEKEND.

Introductory Workshop on Permaculture Gardens

When: Saturday, July 10, 9:30 – 11:30 am

Where: Christus Victor Lutheran Church, 9833 Harford Road, Baltimore, MD 21234

Cost: Free

A Permaculture garden is a landscape designed with edible and native plants in beneficial relationships, replicating a natural ecosystem.

It can be as orderly or as free-form as you like. Each tree and plant in a Permaculture garden is located where its needs are best met so that it will be productive. Rainwater is collected from sloped yards, rooftops and impervious surfaces in swales and rain gardens to irrigate useful plants and absorb excess stormwater.

A Permaculture garden uses polycultures, guilds and forest garden techniques to attract beneficial insects and repel pests, fix nitrogen and draw minerals up from deep in the soil.

By installing a permaculture garden you can help protect local streams and the Bay while simultaneously beautifying your yard and growing healthy organic food. Come learn more!

More information is here.

Please RSVP by emailing or calling 410-357-9523.

Update Fourth of July 2010

Hello readers! I hope you all had a lovely vacation weekend if you celebrated for the Fourth of July.

I took the time to unplug and visit Skaneateles Lake in upstate New York. Apologies for the absence, but it was worth it!

There was much grilling, music, canoeing, swimming, fishing, shooting, and general relaxation.

I even got to use a composting toilet for the first time! Which turned into a bit of a disaster with a dozen people and beer... Staying in a protected watershed with no plumbing certainly makes you aware of the amount of waste humans create!

But that's a story for another time...

(By the way, a waste-reducing party tip I thought of was to bring miniature kegs instead of lots of separate bottles and cans. The large glass containers known as Growlers are also great to bring to a summertime barbeque or party instead of a case of cans or bottles. There are always little ways to reduce your waste stream!)

For now I'll just post a few photos and write about some of the DIY-related highlights of the trip.

DIY highlight #1: the cabin itself.

The cabin belongs to the aforementioned Chicken-Man's family, with multiple generations working on different parts. It was originally a barn, which was knocked down to become the cabin. This boathouse has stood the test of time over freezing upstate NY winters, and I was equally impressed by these stairs coming down a vertical cliff. Serious carpentry. Also, I feel like knowing the history and hard work that went into the cabin made the visit feel even more special.

Also, we got to go to a 100 acre farm in nearby Cortland. There was much ATV riding, archery, and even some shooting of clay pigeons.

I held the unloaded shotgun but it was way too big for lil' ol' me to even think about shooting. Someday I still hope to learn how to shoot a gun, but I do have to admit I'm a little nervous.

And the food?

Quite a bit of food came from the grocery store (yay, s'mores!) but since many of the folks on the trip are fellow Remington gardeners, there were some veggies from Maryland farms as well as some food we had grown or foraged ourselves.

I brought kale and beets from the Remington garden.

Somewhere online I found a recipe that called for marinating kale in coconut milk and then grilling it. Yum!

This blog has a nice description of this recipe. My leaves were too tiny to put right on the grill so I cooked the kale on the sheet of tinfoil. If you're wondering how long to cook the leaves, I like to wait until they get really wilted.

The beets were coated in olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, then wrapped up in a foil packet and roasted.

John Rowley (holding the gun in the above photo) caught a few fish which we also grilled.

Pancakes are a great breakfast for a big group. We put some bananas, chocolate, and other goodies in there along with wild raspberries that were growing in the woods.

Leftover grilled veggies (some of the squash was homegrown) were thrown into an egg scramble.

Thanks for the good time, Nature and friends!
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