Sunday, September 26, 2010

Coming Oct 5th: Urban Forage in Chicago's Gold Coast

Friday night I helped our friend Nance Klehm process about 75 pounds of pears--that she had foraged the day before--into cider.  I don't think you'll take home anywhere near what I did after my work, but thought our readers would like to know about an urban forage that Nance is leading on October 5th from 5-7pm, starting at the Graham Foundation, 4 West Burton Place, in Chicago.  I've lived here over 20 years and until prompted by this event, had no idea that Burton Place is a tiny little street near State and North Avenues, just south of Lincoln Park.

It's being sponsored by The Graham Foundation, who is paying Nance for her time, making it free for the public.  Space is limited and you'll need to register by following this link.

On Tuesday, October 5, 2010, Nance Klehm will lead a small group on a two hour Urbanforage of Chicago’s Gold Coast. On this informal guided walk throughthe spontaneous and cultivated vegetation of the urbanscape, participants will learn to identify plants, hear their botanical histories and stories of their use by animals and humans, and share antidotes of specific experiences with these plants.The Urbanforage will begin in the garden of the Graham Foundation’s Madlener House, where participants are invited to sample an herbal beverage made by the artist. Space is limited, reservations are required.

Nance Klehm began leading Urbanforages in 2006 in suburbs and cities including; Chicago, Los Angeles, Montreal, Salt Lake City, Philadelphia, New York and Mexico City.
She is an ecological systems designer, landscaper, horticultural consultant, permacultural grower, consultant, speaker, and teacher. She is respected internationally for her work on land politics and growing for fertility. She has lectured at the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, the University of Cincinnati, and the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal. She has taught at the University of California, Los Angeles, Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and Dartington College in the United Kingdom. She writes a regular column for Arthur magazine and was included in the books Radical Homemakers (by Shannon Hayes), Participatory Autonomy (edited by Rick Gribenas), and The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved: Inside America’s Underground Food Movements (by Sandor Katz).

Nance Klehm’s work as an urban forager was featured in the exhibition, Actions: What You Can Do With the City, which was on view at the Graham Foundation October 16, 2009 – March 13, 2010.

This event is presented in conjunction with Chicago Artist’s Month.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Travel SIPs (aka Portable Microgarden): An Experiment

Can you find the fill tubes in my travel SIPs?

We're hitting the road and I want to see if we can get our daily greens from a couple of quickly made travel SIPs. Is it obsessive to want all the nutrients of New Zealand spinach, chard, collards, tatsoi, and cress while we wander the wilderness?

I don't think so.

For guidance, I asked Bob Hyland at Inside Urban Green, whose sub-irrigated window box + salad bar SIP concepts intrigue me for next spring. He coined the term "portable microgarden" and it's truly descriptive.

I already had these years-old Earthbound farm spinach boxes, and I found a sturdy brown plastic carrier that will allow me to lift them in and out of our camper easily (you don't need a carrier unless you want to move around a couple of these at once).

The guys at the tire shop provided the plastic drink bottles, which I made vent holes in, for water and air (mine might be a little large, but as with most SIPs it doesn't really matter). Then, two larger holes for the fill tube and the overflow.

The soldering iron I used made it easy to line up/melt the overflow hole on the container right in line with the exit tube. Below are my results. On the right I centered the bottle and it's a bit unstable (see the fill tube tipping to the right?). On my second attempt, at left, I nestled the bottle into the corner instead so it stays in position.

Once I packed these with damp potting mix, though, it didn't seem to matter.

Next I turned to the cool-weather greens I'd started a few weeks back in some of our bucket SIPs. Here are some nice-looking young collards, perfect for transplanting into the travel SIPs.
Happily, Bruce and Chef Art had popped up to the roof, where I was working, for a surprise visit. As we thought about the new travel SIP they suggested I dig down and lift a chunk of soil, root, and plant, transferring the whole handful to the travel SIP.

Good plan.

I top-watered these babies (for the trip I have a funnel that fits into the fill tube) and left them out in the nice overcast day to settle in. As we travel, they'll move with us, inside on road days and outdoors in the cool sun when we pause. And I'll clip clip clip for greens.

Quick-ref instructions, courtesy of Inside Urban Green:
1. Poke some small holes around the circumference of the bottle for air and water circulation (like the perforations in the corrugated drain pipe).
2. Add a piece of plastic tubing for a fill tube (or use something recyclable from the trash).
3. Make an overflow drain hole in the box and connect it to the bottle with a piece of (clear) plastic tubing.

The overflow drain hole is a primitive valve that determines the capacity of the reservoir depending on how high you install it in the reservoir.

Click here for a step-by-step on how to plant your personal microgarden.