Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Chicken and Bee Zoning

This is so cool. One of the things that drives me crazy about most cities and their planning departments is that they don't tailor zoning or trends in zoning to their specific community needs. Oh, they mean well, and they think that they are being place specific, but few have the courage to actually try implementing anything new. The reality of a lot of current city planning is that its designed to trigger economic growth and development. Many communities just try to lay down something that worked in Portland or Chicago on their own cities without acknowledging the key underlying factors that are missing, like a high level of urban density, that made it work elsewhere. I would be happy to see this zoning from Cleveland, OH copied around the country. In fact, I like the idea so much that it makes me want to send their planning department a fan letter. Yay, Cleveland!

Like other cities, notably Detroit, confronted with rampant home foreclosures and vacant parcels, Cleveland is not willing to let urban land lie fallow. In the 77-square-mile area within city limits, there are currently 18,000 vacant lots totaling 3,500 acres. While the primary goal is neighborhood redevelopment – including an emphasis on arts and entertainment and building on anchor institutions such as the Cleveland Clinic and universities - the city has also launched several initiatives to try to enhance urban form despite dwindling population and stalled private-sector activity. Among them: stabilizing vacant lots with urban gardens and native plantings, demolition of structures while maintaining foundations to allow the construction of greenhouses, allowing sideyard expansion, and using vacant lots for geo-thermal wells to heat neighboring structures. But perhaps the most interesting effort is "chicken and bee" zoning – dramatically reduced setback requirements for coops and hives on empty parcels. The city is considering going even further, relaxing rules for raising roosters, turkeys, geese, goats, pigs, and sheep, and possibly including new agricultural overlay districts for more intensive urban farming. Robert N. Brown, director of the Cleveland City Planning Commission, said that zoning would not be changed to accommodate processing or slaughtering, but that urban farming was seen as an appropriate use of the vacant land for now. He made a presentation on the efforts at the annual convening of city planning directors from the nation's 30 largest cities sponsored by the Lincoln Institute, the American Planning Association, and Harvard University's Graduate School of Design.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


I've been watching "5 Films about Christo & Jeanne-Claude," over the last couple of months. Its a 3 disc documentary series made by the Maysles brothers, of Grey Gardens fame. I'm watching the fifth film, "Umbrellas," right now. I particularly recommend the films to anyone who has ever had to take part in a public meeting. The backlash against a public art project is pretty typical, but in these films almost without fail the biggest opponents are crying at the beauty of it once its installed. Which in itself is awesome. It really brings home the point that public art can touch people who may never voluntarily enter a museum. Also awesome are Jeanne-Claude's hair styles and colors. And her constant chain smoking, which she pretty much does at all times except during a Japanese typhoon.

Today was a fitting day to finish the series because I just learned that Jeanne-Claude died on Wednesday. Here's to you Jeanne-Claude.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Let's eat Weeds

It can't get much more local and sustainable than making a salad out of weeds from the yard. We have a huge number of wild mustard popping up across the yard right now. Picked small it tastes just like arugula. I gathered some this morning and made a salad for lunch, combining the spicy wild mustard with sweet apple slices, a few pine nuts, and a yogurt based dressing. (Yes, I slightly overdressed it. I didn't want to save the little bit of extra dressing and just threw it in there. How non-gourmet of me). On the side I finished up the last of the home made bread that I made last week with sliced black pepper cheddar melted on top. Yum.

Winter Garden

I'm calling it officially winter now that we've had multiple freezing nights all in a row. Yesterday I was home all day and ventured outside in the afternoon to complete a few chores and spend some time with my mom's dogs.

In the garden I saw that the frost has finally taken a toll on the cardoons. Wilting, although they look like they'd be fine if we'd just given them a little protection.

Even though these just look like barren stalks right now, its our first planting of raspberries, so I'm pretty excited. There are only a few canes so far, but I plan to extend the raspberry planting along the south side of the fence.

And just for the record, the garden looks super weedy because it is super weedy. We haven't cleaned it up yet because birds keep foraging in there, and we want to let them eat all they can. We've had a pheasant grazing back there most mornings. Beautiful, but I never remember to take my camera out that early to capture a photo.

I spent part of it restocking the wood pile for my wood stove. We have a huge pile of wood stockpiled from all of the trees that we've had to cut down, and try to have the tree company cut the wood down into manageable pieces, and/or shred it so we can reuse it as mulch. Anything that was cut small enough to fit in the wood stove, I burn. Its a mixture of woods, and not always the best for a fire, but it works. Alternately, when the remaining pre-cut wood is too big to fit into the wood stove, I split it or cut smaller pieces myself. I need to replace the chain on my chainsaw though, and so yesterday was just about sorting through the pile and taking what was there.

Two of the (four) namesake dogs. Happily hanging out by me as I sort through the woodpile.

The haul. This yellow garden cart has been our best "tool" investment. Love it.

Today I have some leaf raking on my list of things to do. With the size of this property I refuse to rake until all the leaves have fallen. Its an exhausting task as it is, and having to do it more than once a year is too depressing to contemplate. Maybe I'll take a photo of a giant pile of leaves later.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Cardoon Pizza

In the Summer of 2008 I took a solo trip to Virginia to finally see Monticello. Of all of Thomas Jefferson's endeavors, my favorite was the vegetable garden. Well, and the figs. I never would have imagined that figs would grow so well there.

I love vegetable gardens anyway, and I especially love gardens that try to grow the same or similar varieties to what would have been there during their historic heyday. In the gift shop I chose culinary souvenirs, a cookbook of Monticello recipes and a few packets of seeds. One was cardoon. We started the cardoons this spring from seed, and transplanted them into the back garden interspersed with our artichokes. They grew like mad (see here), but I wasn't sure how to harvest them. Turns out you can eat both the stalks and the root, so this fall I've been judiciously pruning them so that I can try them out.

The problem is that cardoon is a difficult vegetable. It has extremely sharp needle like thorns along its stalk and is very fibrous. Its also really bitter if you don't blanch it before cooking. Most recipes I've found instruct you to blanch the cardoon, drain it and then boil it again for 3o to 45 minutes. One may have instructed braising, I can't remember. The boiling process destroys the bitter flavor and leaves a mild artichoke flavor behind, which is good. However it also makes for a really soft and somewhat watered down vegetable. I'm not sure its worth it.

In order to maximize the artichoke flavor I first tried to make soup. It was okay, but had a fairly weak flavor. The next time I decided to use cardoon as a topping on pizza. Much better. I still over-cooked the cardoons during the pre-boiling phase, and need to watch them more closely next time. However, so far I think this is the best use.

Pizza ingredients: mozzarella, pesto (from garden but frozen), rosemary, cardoon, yellow potato, caramelized onions.

Pizza just out of the oven. The crust was the same as last time, made from the Animal, Vegetable, Miracle recipe.

On the plate.

Monday, November 9, 2009

NaNoWriMo Update

I mistakenly thought I'd write enough over the weekend that I'd be caught up to the goal word count by now, but that just wasn't the case. And why did I think that anyway? I'm always running around on the weekend like a chicken with my head cut off. I'm at 7043 as of Sunday night. Not a huge word count, but still on track for my 1000 words a day goal.

I can't say for sure, but I think the endeavor has been great for my state of well-being. Whether it's the cathartic quality of pouring words out everyday, the sense of accomplishment, or that its just fun, I've found that I've been in better than average mood since I started. I've been having really nice dreams too, filled with all of my friends and family members. They've all centered around big events or holidays, so literally all my friends and family members in one dream. I'm starting to wonder if I'm going to get news that someone near me is planning a wedding... guess we'll have to wait and see.

DIY Project

This weekend I finished updating the bedside table that I bought at a neighbor's garage sale.

It's not as nice as the inspiration obviously, but it looks lot better than it did. I'm still planning on putting on a mirrored top to break up that blue a little. And honestly, I'm not sure that the blue will look good with my soon to be sewn curtains, so I may end up painting it again. For now though its great and has already improved the bedroom. Before this I was using a Lack side table from IKEA, and its so much better having a drawer.

Things that I've noticed about bedside tables now that I have a real one:

1) There is a lot of storage space in that drawer! What am I supposed to fill it with? I put in a scented drawer liner for a nice little olfactory surprise every time I open it, but otherwise its pretty empty. I guess I could have put all those unattractive paperbacks in there, especially since I'm not actually reading any of them right now.

2) My alarm clock is really ugly! I honestly never paid any attention to it before, but it looks like crap on that table. Need a new attractive alarm clock. Any recommendations?

3) I need fresh flowers! Or maybe some flowering plant like an orchid. There is a ton of space on here and flowers in the bedroom are always a welcome addition. My bedside lamp hangs from above, so I'm not going to fill the top with a lamp. Can you tell clutter is my usual state of existence? I'm freaked out by a clean and empty surface!

So in summary, not perfect, but much better than before and I feel good about turning this project around quickly.

Monday, November 2, 2009


I signed up for NaNoWriMo. I figured that at the very least it'll be a good thing to write every day, even if most of it turns out to be nonsense. My weekends are usually so crazy busy that by Sunday evening I can barely keep my eyes open, and yesterday was no exception. Fall is killer when it comes to house/yard chores, harvesting projects (still processing apples, yesterday it was apple butter). I wasn't able to sit down to write until 9:00 last night, but managed to get down 1055 words, before the time change yesterday made me too tired to keep going. In order to get the goal word count of 50,000 by the end of the month, I should have kept it up for another 600 words. Guess I'll just have to try to make up for it today. I have several characters mapped out in my head, and a basic organizing structure for the plot, so I feel okay with it all. Now it'll just be a matter of seeing whether or not my characters will cooperate with my plot. Should be fun. Or really frustrating? Too soon to tell.