We found that house! Still, I will miss the oldness of my old house. So that’s why, on a whim and a search, I found a great blog www.reclaimingdetroit.org
Not only can those old glass doorknobs and beautiful old hardwoods be found here, lovingly rescued from crumbling buildings, but the organization provides much needed jobs and training to Detroit’s population.
I’m putting this on my list of places to check out just as soon as the last box is unpacked:
This is going to be a weird spring.
For 13 winters something has been growing in my basement.
Now don’t be frightened, especially if you are a potential buyer of my house.
The things that grew were my seedlings. All through the winter. Under grow lights set under timers.
Trays and trays of seedlings growing in plantable peat pots.
Annuals. Perennials. And Herbs.
All legal herbs, that is.
From the tiny seedlings grew the fully grown plants that populated my garden each year.
But this spring, the spring of transition, the only thing I’ve planted has been this:
The only gardening I’ve done is the kind where you weed while kneeling on a gardening pad and watch the bulbs you’ve planted from previous years emerge from the ground.
So, this gardener without a garden needs your help.
Won’t you write to me with your gardening plans – especially if you live in my current town of Rochester, or better yet, if you live in Detroit, tell me what the gardening scene is like in the motor city. Write to me where you find my contact information and I will feature you as a guest blogger right here.
So, get your green thumbs out of the dirt and onto that keyboard and write me!
Now that December is here, this post about wrapping things up in my little spot in the Brighton Community Garden is way overdue. But I must write this final post as a conclusion to the unforgettable experience it has been digging, weeding, watering and reaping alongside my fellow Brighton neighbors.
My neighbors and I have shared watering and weeding responsibilities through a hot dry summer. Our tomato patches bursting with more than one family could possibly consume, we’ve traded beefsteaks for exotic varieties such as the green-striped zebra or tiny yellow jelly bean.
Sue Gardiner-Smith, the manager of the garden, made sure that we kept up with our commitments to clear the common paths of weeds and not let our own plots get too overgrown (that meant taming my wild pumpkin vines!) In return, she gave me carte blanche to take as much Swiss Chard as I could cut from her never-ending crop of the green leafy stuff.
My garden experience ended on Veteran’s Day. The kids had the day off. First, we paid a visit to the brand new Veteran’s Memorial sculpture, just next door to the garden:
Then, we got to work. We pulled out the last of the vegetation, blackened and dead as a result of a hard killing frost that descended over Rochester a night or two before:
We pulled up the fencing and the poles ( the boys had to have a stick fight with them atop the compost heap, of course):
Harvested our last pumpkins and carrots, and finally, chopped down the remains of that sunflower that grew to be about 10 feet tall.
Putting this garden to bed would be the first of many lasts for me in Rochester.
Like clearing out this garden, I’m literally pulling up my roots again. Rochester may not be my hometown, but it is for my kids.
When I cleared the last weeds with my kids, I knew I would never garden here again.
I would not be putting down my $25 deposit to renew my lease on this 10′x10′ piece of land that gave me so much delight. Next spring, this plot will be cared by someone else.
Next spring, I’ll be well on my way to finding our next home, and hopefully our next garden somewhere in Michigan.
Sometimes, one has to make a big move, say, relocation for a job.
Here is a guest post from a man who took a chance with his wife and son to live in a new place simply because it was the place they wanted to be.
I’m off this weekend to check out the next potential chapter of my family’s life in the Detroit, Michigan area. While I’m away, I’m letting an old friend hold down the fort here at transplantednorth.
I met Chris in college at the Daily Targum, the daily student-run newspaper at Rutgers University. I wrote copy while he was either shooting photos or developing them in a darkroom. Though our paths did not cross until college, we also both grew up on Staten Island.
I haven’t seen Chris since those college days, but we’ve kept in touch thanks to the miracle of Facebook. Since our college days, Chris worked for 12 years as a fundraiser and spokesperson for the American Red Cross, being the spokesperson for major disasters such as the TWA flight 800 and other air crashes, several dozen major hurricanes, tornados and floods, the Kosovo crisis, the 1999 Turkish earthquake and many others.
After leaving the Red Cross, Chris moved into private business in sales and business development and acquisition. In 2010 Chris led a group of investors in the acquisition and restructuring of Chesapeake Bay Roasting Company in Crofton, Maryland, where they produce a premium coffee that is also the most sustainable coffee you can buy. From the custom-built roaster that uses 78% less energy and packaging manufactured entirely from recyclable materials to the “H2O Initiative” which commits 2% of coffee sales (not profits) to organizations that help protect and restore the watershed, Chesapeake Bay Roasting Company coffees make a great cup while making local communities better places to live, work and play.
Now semi-retired and living with his wife and son in Panama, Chris keeps his hands in some charitable organizations with a mission for sustainability, including raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for EarthEcho International (EEI), an organizaiton founded by naturalists Philippe and Alexandra Cousteau.
He and his family relocated to Panama City, Panama in the summer of 2012 to give his son an international high school experience and explore life and business opportunities in a booming Latin American culture.
Here is his story of being a transplant. What is yours?
Three months ago my wife, 14 year son and I picked up and moved from Silver Spring, Maryland to Panama City, Panama – after just six whirlwind months from coming up with the idea to execution. We’ve always been a little impetuous, but this one was our biggest idea yet!
We actually made the move because we wanted to, not because of work or family. The idea of “slowing down” while giving my son the chance to go through high school in an international environment was one we all thought shouldn’t be missed.
We knew we were moving to a completely new environment that operates in a language we don’t speak, but it was still a major shock once we arrived.
No matter how much you prepare yourself, stepping off the plane without a return ticket and realizing you actually live here is something you really can’t understand until you do it.
I went from feeling like a confident and successful entrepreneur to someone who struggled to set up the basics for his family. I just wasn’t ready for how difficult it would be to get cell phones and internet service, satellite TV, and an account wit the electric company.
Even though I learned to drive in New York City, I was completely unprepared for the insanity of Panama City roads and the aggressiveness of the drivers. Traffic signals are truly suggestions, and a road is any place you can drive your vehicle – shoulders, medians, even grassy strips.
three months into the adventure I’m starting to see the challenges as opportunities. The Latin attitude of “mañana” is actually a great way to live if you can embrace it. Panamanians truly “work to live,” as opposed to the American attitude of “live to work.” I never really though that was how we were living our lives back in the States, but now that we’ve lived someplace else for a while we’ve realized just how much our American lives were defined by what we did for a living, and how much time and energy we devoted to it.
to trying to figure out what all those guys standing on the side of the road are doing (relieving themselves in the grass – why actually find a rest room?). And there have been plenty of humorous moments as we learn Spanish. (Text messaging is huge here; for weeks I kept asking my wife, “what the hell does ‘jajaja’ mean?” Must have read it 20 times before I pronounced it in Español – hahaha!)
We’ve also tried to find a way to make a difference in our new home country, and we’ve “adopted” a home for abused and abandoned girls. We’re leading a campaign to raise the funds to rebuild the roof, electric and plumbing. It’s been a moving experience (you can read more about the project at http://www.panamahogar.org).
Now that we’ve been here for three months, I’m realizing most of life here isn’t better or worse – it’s just different. Embrace the change – which was the whole reason we made the move in the first place – and life in another country can be a really fantastic experience.
Now, full disclosure here, this is not my photo.
I DID take a photo like this on a summer road trip but, thinking I would never use it, erased it from my camera, to be gone forever. The WordPress weekly photo challenge this week makes me realize, you never know when you are going to need a shot, so hang onto everything!
When you take trips on long stretches of roads like we do, every now again at a rest/truck stop, you come across a tractor trailer carrying something enormous. Curiosity piqued, we HAD to drive closer in the dusty truck stop parking lot to check it out.
Conclusion: Wind Turbines are BIG. Let’s hope that our use of wind energy in this country only gets … bigger.
Sue Gardner Smith, manager of the Brighton and South Wedge farmers markets, stands with a old abandoned barn along Westfall Road in Brighton. The barn is part of a site proposed as the Brighton Farm and Farmers Market expansion and renovation project. / SHAWN DOWD//staff photographer
Perhaps it is no coincidence that a woman with a surname derived from an old French word meaning “gardener” would become a grass-roots champion of the sustainable and organic food movement in Brighton.
With humble determination, Sue Gardner Smith turned her activism into a career in managing farmers markets — first in the South Wedge neighborhood of the city and now in Brighton.
Gardner Smith was the oldest of seven children growing up on a 70-acre farm in Wayne County that had been in her family for a century. She remembers walking through its cherry orchards with her father and tending to the family garden with her mother and siblings.
Being the oldest in a large family, Gardner Smith developed the nurturing traits of a “mother hen” by cooking meals and caring for her younger siblings. In her early culinary experimentation, some dishes were tastier than others. Even into adulthood, she still gets teased by her siblings at her first attempts in the kitchen.
“When I was nine, I came up with a dish called chipped beef on toast. It was wretched. … I have to say that my cooking and tastes have improved vastly since then,” said Gardner Smith, who now prefers making dishes like ricotta cheese and onions stuffed into Swiss chard leaves she grows at her 10-foot by 10-foot plot in the Brighton community garden, a project also under her charge.
In her experiences of living in cities abroad and in the United States, nothing unites people more than food. She has shopped for fresh produce in the open-air markets and dined in the cafes in the plazas of Brussels. In London, there was the tavern and pub culture, “neutral” places where local neighbors could gather for a meal and a drink at the end of the day.
During her 15 years living in the San Francisco Bay area, she visited restaurants like Chez Panisse and markets such as the Berkeley Bowl, where the air buzzed with a sense of what she called “food energy.”
“It’s not just about eating. It’s how people gather at markets to socialize and catch up with neighbors as they shop. It’s the sounds of local musicians playing among the produce stands. I have long felt that Brighton should have this kind of gathering place, and I’m glad to watch its success,” she said.
Since 2008, the market held each Sunday in the Brighton High School parking lot from May through October is a testament of Brighton’s desire for high-quality and locally grown food. One thing Gardner Smith admits is that from a short-term perspective, eating organic and local is a bit costlier. Also, a recent Stanford University study recently concluded that organic food is no more nutritional than conventionally grown food.
However, she believes these factors will not curb the organic, locavore trend. This is because people are starting to put values on reducing their carbon footprint and the use of harmful pesticides, and developing a direct and trusting relationship between the grower and the producer at local markets.
“The study missed the point and had too narrow a focus. When you buy local and organic, you develop a sense of trust with the farmer, and you are also helping to support the local economy,” she said.
In addition to buying locally produced food, Brighton residents also expressed a desire to get their own hands dirty in avegetable garden of their own. In 2009, the creation of a community garden in Brighton seemed like the next step.
“It seemed like an obvious sister project to the market,” said Gardner Smith, who with a committee helped build a fence and a gate system around 100 10-foot by 10-foot plots on Westfall Road by the historic Groos house. Outside of a few stubborn groundhogs that managed to breach the fence, Brighton residents have enjoyed the bounty of their harvests.
Now that the shorter days and cooler nights of autumn are here, it is time for Gardner Smith and the other Brighton gardeners to put their plots to rest for the winter. But that doesn’t mean that plans for coming years will be put into hibernation.
Her ambitions for future years include using funds from a $250,000 state grant awarded to the town to preserve a farmhouse, a barn and some of the farmland on Westfall Road. The proposed project aims to create a permanent location for the farmers market and an expansion to the community garden with educational opportunities for schoolchildren to learn more about agriculture.
“Not only is my job rewarding, it’s also a lot of fun. I’ve met so many wonderful people in Brighton who are committed to this meaningful work that really has made a difference.”
Indeed, Sue Gardner Smith’s name suits her well.
One grew up among the tea plantations of the Darjeeling region of India
One was raised in Buddhist teachings. The other came to Buddhism in his teens.
One way or another, they found themselves in Rochester.
This Friday, come check out their shared venture in the Kuma-Gama Clay Studio and Tea Bar.
Over a glass of freshly brewed hibiscus iced tea, I had the opportunity to interview them both.
Here is their full story which I profiled them in the Democrat & Chronicle:
Within Japanese culture is the aesthetic of Wabi-Sabi.
Rooted in Buddhism, this philosophy draws attention and appreciation to life’s everyday simplicities. It asks the follower to seek out beauty in unobvious places, such as the gnarled and twisted texture of a tree branch or the irregular jaggedness of a stone.
In many ways, Rochester is a Wabi-Sabi city, says potter Cody Kroll, making it the perfect place to create his imperfectly shaped sculpture and Japanese tea ware.
“Rochester is … not perfect, and it is unfinished,” says Kroll, an Austin, Texas, native. “That’s the way I make art, by always keeping in mind that nothing is perfect and nothing is permanent.”
Kroll was working out of a small studio in the Hungerford Building and selling his work on etsy.com.
While online, he met Niraj Lama, a native of the Darjeeling region of India, who was selling his Happy Earth Tea online. Lama is a newcomer to Rochester, and when the two realized they lived in the same city, they met in person and a business venture began.
They will open Kuma-Gama Clay Studio and Happy Earth Tea Bar in a larger space, Suite 228, in the Hungerford, 1115 Main St., during First Friday this week.
Kroll’s work will be on display, and Lama will provide a history of tea, as well as tastings.
Kroll’s interest in Japanese culture came early in his life. His grandfather was a Marine stationed in Japan and brought him some pottery. Kroll studied fine arts at Eastern Kentucky University and State University of New York at Buffalo. He has been influenced by 16th-century and modern Japanese glazing techniques from artists such as Kanzaki Shiho and Suzuki Tomio.
In the spartan space of the Kuma-Gama Clay Studio, light streams through industrial glass block windows onto whitewashed walls. From outside, one can hear the clank and whistle of a passing train on the railroad tracks behind the building. Cinderblocks support a shelving system of wooden boards that display Kroll’s creations.
On these shelves, the visitor shouldn’t go looking for a matching tea set of identical cups fashioned with traditional scenes.
In his own primitive “impressionistic” style, Kroll strives to capture the fleetingness of a single moment on the surface of his earth-toned works, sometimes in a glaze that seemed to be fired in a kiln while it was still dripping, sometimes in unglazed parts of a piece that capture his fingerprints.
Though each piece is a one-of-a-kind creation, when a few are assembled, they suggest an eclectic harmony and the ideal vessels for a formal Japanese tea ceremony or the enjoyment of a single cup of tea.
Kroll says because Japan is an island nation, each has its own distinct style and uses resources found nearby. So too does Kroll, who only uses locally dug clays, such as what is found at the bottom of the pond of the Folk Art Guild of Rochester in Middlesex, Yates County. The glazes Kroll uses are made from ash taken from wood-fired ovens of local restaurants.
Everything about Kuma-Gama Clay Studio takes sustainability into consideration. The Hungerford Building has been repurposed from an old fruit-packing plant to a place where local artists work and live. Tea is served from an old piece of furniture found outside the hallway in the studio. It was refurbished into a tea bar and adorned with polished tin ceiling tiles also found in the building.
When Kroll moved to Buffalo in the early 2000s to earn his master’s degree, he thought all of New York would resemble Manhattan. He says he has grown to appreciate Rochester’s artistic and cultural riches and its potential to grow as a creative hub.
“To me, Rochester is what Austin was 25 years ago — a nice, yet-to-be discovered city along a river. I actually like that Rochester is a little depressed,” says Kroll, referring to the Buddhist outlook of accepting the high and low phases of life and knowing that each will pass.
While Kroll’s art is based on appreciating imperfections, Lama’s craft in making the perfect cup of tea depends on the precision of timing, water temperature and the cut of leaf.
Growing up in the foothills of the Himalayas, covered with tea plantations, Lama was raised in a culture of tea. In the country that is the world’s biggest consumer of the beverage, tea was part of everyday life. Though Lama worked as a journalist in India, the tea import business keeps him connected to his homeland.
“Tea nourishes the soul. It takes some time and patience to calm down to enjoy the subtleties of the flavors of tea. While coffee delivers that jolt to get you through the day, tea offers the drinker a tranquil alertness,” Lama says.
Together, Kroll and Lama hope to foster a “tea society” at the studio, where tea lovers and those simply curious about tea can learn about tea ceremony traditions and the art of making the beverage.
Kroll and Lama see the repurposing of the Hungerford Building as symbolic to the revitalization of Rochester. Just as Lama’s tea is a symbol of welcoming hospitality in his culture, so it has been with the “open, welcoming” nature of the people he has met in Rochester since moving here with his wife and two small children just 18 months ago.
“Rochester to me as an outsider has been a very gentle, welcoming place,” Lama says
This post is long overdue, but WordPress put up the perfect photo challenge to (kick me in the pants and get writing) I mean, get me motivated:
What is urban? This is what true urbanism should be. A blend of city and nature on a perfect summer day.
I went to a lot of places over the summer, but my favorite destination, for always, remains:
New York City.
It’s a place where I grew up, and you’d think I would be tired of it already. Seen it all. Been there. Done that.
That’ll never happen. Because there is always something New to discover in New York City. Even for us natives.
For example, in our annual summer visit to New York City, we toured the High Line.
Opened in recent years and built on refurbished elevated rail lines, the High Line lets the visitor walk the thin line between street level and the heights of skyscrapers. It is a strip of gardens, fountains and orchards that blooms right between steel, brick and glass and wooden water towers. It repurposes an older structure that would have otherwise been torn down and instead has been transformed into a public space and one of the best places to snap pictures in all of New York City.
It goes on for about 20 blocks above the West Side’s meat-packing district and there are plans to extend the High Line to more of the old abandoned El.
With fountains, flowers and musical and cultural events, all set in a shining beacon of sustainable public space, to me it’s the best 20 blocks you can walk right now in NYC.
I shot these photos on my dad’s Nikon:
It’s been more than a few weeks since I’ve written about my garden. I’ve had to pack the kids for camp. I was away visiting family and friends in New York City. There are several writing deadlines I must complete before the end of next week. And the family is in a bit of transition. More on that in a later post.
But, at the beginning of the summer, I said I would post about my garden, and I’ve got to get back on track.
Since early May I have been tending a 10 x 10 foot plot in my town’s community garden. I have been watering diligently
through this very dry summer.
When I was away, I left my garden in the care of some friends who have a plot adjacent to mine. They have a garden that is not only well cared for but is sealed like a fortress against any critters that may want to feast on their crops.
After a week of being away, I was tempted to drive out to the garden the night we arrived home. But there were kids and suitcases to unpack and get into the house. The garden would have to wait.
No one can tell me that there isn’t a time difference between New York City and Rochester.
Maybe its just the pace of time that moves faster “downstate” because when we returned from our week away in good ‘ol NYC, I was exhausted and slept until after 8 that morning.
I tried to push some energy into my voice when the phone rang and woke me at 8:15.
It was my gardening friend.
“Have you been over to the garden? I didn’t wake you? Did I?”
No, of course you didn’t wake me, I said, faking a wide awake tone into my voice. But, considering I just got home at nine the night before, and my garden would not be visible in the darkness.
I thought, is she mad? I’m still in downstate jet lag…why don’t Rochesterians get that there exists jetlag when returning from New York City? And you don’t even need to fly to get it!
“Well, you should get over there soon. Your garden is becoming known as the Garden that Ate the Community Garden!”
Indeed. In just one week’s time, my garden had exploded.
Now, compare my community garden at its humble beginnings back in May:
I cleared it and planted tiny seeds:
Sunflowers have grown taller than my tallest child.
Both the sunflowers – and the children
Pumpkin vines are creeping everywhere. I’ve actually received gentle reminders from my garden neighbors to please retrain my vines back into my garden plot and out of the common garden paths.
And, unlike a sun deprived pumpkin vine, not only am I getting blossoms that have been host to a number of pollen-intoxicated bees, but I actually have 5-10 pumpkins taking shape. I’ll need to make a lot of pumpkin pie this fall.
Not to mention a lot of tomato sauce:
The full sun of the garden has produced such strong leaves on my tomato plants, it looks like they’ve been going to the gym.
There have been some failures, of course every garden has them. My eggplant plants were eaten first by beetles and then strangled and overgrown by the invasive pumpkin vines.
The basil seeds I sprinkled never made it in this dry summer without a good daily watering.
But so far, this experiment in community gardening is paying off. Harvested my first crop of purple beans for dinner last night:
This will be the year.
This is the year when I, as a gardener, who has lived for over a decade trying to eek out a ripe tomato or a proper cucumber vine in the dappled sunlight of my backyard, will finally understand what full sun means.
This is the year that this gardener becomes a farmer.
For $25, I signed on to care for a 10′x10′ foot plot of earth in The Town of Brighton’s Community Garden. I’m hoping not only to reap some great crops of vegetables and flowers for bouquets all summer, I’m also looking forward to the people I’m going to meet and the stories I will learn from them.
But when I made my first visit to the community garden, located along Westfall Road in Brighton, I wondered what I’ve gotten myself into.
This is the third or fourth season at the garden and many of the plots have been cared for by some pretty seasoned green thumbs. There are plots adorned and accessorized with fencing systems to keep out critters,
neatly divided quadrants, and well-built support systems to grow climbing bean and pea vines. There are plots that have strawberry plants and leeks sprouting up that were planted from the year before:
Some caring gardeners have even designed a scarecrow:
Then, I located my plot. Plot D-4:
Weedy. Messy. Nothing much to look at. But, hey, I signed on to this, and this little plot of land was mine for the season so I got to work.
It took little effort to pull out the weeds from the soft, loamy soil. The most delicious feeling soil I have ever worked compared to the clay-laden soil in my backyard garden. Did I mention that my neighborhood was built on a former brick making quarry. ‘Nuf said about the quality of the soil.
But out here: The Brighton Community Garden sits on a former cow pasture that was home to a century’s worth of dairy cows. You guess it, this soil is blessed by 100 years of blessed cow poop.
I weeded and I tilled, the only sounds I heard were the swallows and red-winged blackbirds that swooped and sang overhead.
I did bring along my iPod for company and listened to music on its tiny speakers. And, even though I was alone in this sunny field, I still kept looking over my shoulder to make sure no one was going to run off with it. There are some habits from New York City that don’t die.
After a few hours, my plot looked like this:
Not bad for a first day’s work.
Next up: I’ll install a fence and start planting some seeds.