May 31, 2007

Cultivation Karma?

Aren't Quivus and Zalaazil cute inspecting these free tomato plants? This is a rare treat because they kill all species from the kingdom Plantae, as Quivus quickly demonstrated moments after the photo was taken.

I scored 36 free tomato plants on Wool St yesterday, thanks to a tip from fellow Compactor, John Perry. I snagged them on the way down the hill from a dog walk, left 6 in the community garden on Cortland, and stashed the rest behind my client's stairs for a day. Hauling them home on my bike was tricky. The effort was aided by a passing neighbor who took 6 more off my hands! On my street, Raul's going to pass a few down the street, leaving me with about 18 plants. Still too many.
Can't wait to call my dad to get the skinny on tomato cultivation! They smell so good!

May 30, 2007

Open Fruit Pick in the Backyard

Surprisingly, my housemate is down with the idea to collectivize the backyard. the two of us agree that we cannot manage any sort of garden on our own, nor can we eat all of the fruit that is currently produced.

We're hosting a fruit pick to get those plums and persimmons off the trees. That will give our friends a chance to come check out the space and to express interest in working with us. We do rent, but are only inviting folks we know, and friends of folks we know, to become partners in the backyard. We want edible or native plants only to keep water inputs low. And we want folks to come from our surrounding neighborhoods, or folks we see over here regularly anyway. No sense in folks driving across town to work in our garden.

But we're excited about this! Community gardens are the number 2 desire of San Franciscans in terms of park use. So if we can help some folks get their hands dirty, all the better. I'm sure the camaraderie will encourage the two of us to work out there more, and incite yummy potlucks among other benefits.

May 23, 2007

Making My Backyard a Collective Garden?

Before I approach my housemate w/ this thought, I'll pose it here. I have backyard with sun in San Francisco. Seriously, it's a commodity. Last year Blake (that's my best friend/housemate) and I took all of the sinks, toilets, roofing materials, doors, wood, tile, and such out through our evicted neighbors street access after 2 years of renting this place. So now we REALLY have a backyard. It isn't just a tetanus hazard these days.

But I housesit 10-14 days per month and Blake just ain't the most outdoorsy. So to get the most utility of the space, I'd like to communalize it. Maybe I'm nuts. See this requires me giving a house key to anyone who wants to participate as we have no street access. But it seems like a shame that we're not actively enjoying this space unless we're painting anti-war banners or feeding feral cats. We have 7 fruit trees (which we never knew until we got rid of the dumptruck full of debris). We can't even eat all of the plums, persimons, and pears.

So yeah, free bike parking in my garage for green thumb folks who want to turn the rest of our backyard into a native plant garden! I can score the plants from local native plant gurus, but I need help caring for them since I'm only around half the time. Must be tolerant of feral cats and willing to kill a vibrant cotoneaster.

Really Really Free Market! and a funny car moment

The Really Really Free Market takes place this Saturday in San Francisco's Dolores Park. We'll be hangin' out from noon to dusk. Everything is free. Bring your unwanted items, take something with you, or bring a skill to share. Be prepared to take any of your unwanted stuff back home if no one snags it.

I love the RRFM, and if you make it on Saturday, you will too. It's more than a free garage sale. It's folks creating the change that they want to see in the way resources are distributed. It's a gift economy and we all have something to give.

On another note entirely, I saw the most ridiculous thing today on my way to Holly Park. I tend to get really self-righteous when I see someone washing a car. I'm a water conservation NUT, and I'm not a fan of personal automobiles either. Upon seeing someone wasting our precious Hetch Hetchy water on a land use converting, climate changer, I generally scowl and grumble under my breath.

Today was different though. I saw a guy washing his SUV ... while it was running. He nearly sprayed me and two dogs because, of course, he was blocking the sidewalk to do this highly intelligent activity. Maybe if you leave the car running it will dry faster. I dunno, but I couldn't grumble. I was so overwhelmed by sight that I started howling with laughter. Pixel and Raster (the dogs in my care) thought I'd gone nuts but were thrilled to get the hell away from the hose. I think the SUV man thought I was crazy, too.
To make this even more ridiculous, I tried to find a web image of someone washing a red SUV to put w/ this post. Do not google "car wash" unless you want to see a lot of scantily clad women covered in soap.

The Really Really Free Market is way more important than this antecdote but I had to share. If you're in SF, hope to see you there. If not, check your area for a local RRFM. If you don't find one, start one.

May 22, 2007

When precious items break

A small piece of plastic broke yesterday, leaving me with hair in my face and that requisite anxiety that creeps in when I start to think about replacing random crap like headbands. You might think it's trivial, and to a certain extent, so do I. But I loved this headband b/c it actually allowed me to be a bit stylish while maintaining a functional cut.
I don't like hair in my face when I'm cycling or when I'm walking dogs on windy Bernal Hill.
Ok, so it should be easy enough to replace right? Well I've never actually seen another one like this. It had this pattern to it that staggered out my locks.
I know this sounds petty. But consider that I don't really buy into the typical conventions of style and conspicuous consumption. I nearly always choose function over form. I wear the ugliest shoes ever, because my body hurts like hell if I try to wear any sort of cute shoe. Whatever. I wear an ugly, torn windbreaker b/c it's reflective and I feel safer on my bike. Whatever. I've been missing 5 of 10 earrings for the past year. Whatever. But this headband worked, ya know?
I have another headband, but it's ugly. I'll wear it, but I won't be happy about it.

May 19, 2007

a vapid moment as a vegetarian

I've been some sort of vegetarian for about 7 years now. I've lived vegan but am currently ovo-lacto, except for that ounce of wild salmon I ate on Monday. Why I feel the need to explore this here is unclear to me, but I've been thinking about those 2 tablespoons of flesh all week.

I became a vegetarian because of animal rights concerns, particularly the cruelty of factory farming. Ecological considerations deepen my commitment. For example, do you know what the top two agricultural uses of water are in the water poor state of California?
1) Irrigated Pasture (for cows mainly)
2) Alfalfa (for cows mainly)
Or that 8 oz of tofu uses requires about 460 gallons of water where as 8 oz of steak requires 1231 gallons of water?

What would convince a committed vegetarian to eat flesh? Well, it didn't take much. At a potluck my friend provided salmon that he caught off the tip of Point Reyes. I always find myself stupidly saying that I'd eat wild game before I'd eat farmed animals because wild animals had a chance to live, were never enslaved. Why I feel it necessary to apologize for my diet is unclear to me. I grew up fishing and even hunting deer and squirrels with my dad in Georgia. I said this bit about eating game on Monday, and somehow felt a curiosity about my own philosophy.

I always made this wild game statement in a conditional way, as in, "If I had to eat flesh..." Well, I was at a potluck in San Francisco, clearly I didn't have to eat meat. No one pressured me to do so or insulted my regular habits (god knows if they had, then no fish would have neared my lips). Indeed, the open minded crew whose company I was enjoying was a certain factor in my decision to try fish.

I'm not saying that I feel some heavy guilt over my fish eating. Rather I'm reflecting on my principles here. Perhaps all of the strict rules in my life have made these perverse missteps more likely. My absolutism necessitates some rebellion at times.

No, I don't feel guilty about eating a couple of bites of fish. But I feel a bit foolish. As strong as my beliefs are about eating flesh, I knew that a few bites wouldn't change my habits, so I ate the salmon. But what's the point in that? It feels a bit voyeuristic, kinda shallow. Like the way I think of foie gras consumption. I can't even bear to describe the taste, because that seems so vulgar to me. As it sank into my mouth I couldn't consider the feeling as good or bad, only bizarre.

Above I noted "my decision to try fish". But it's not like I'd never eaten fish before, or like I would start eating it regularly from this taste. For both of these reasons, I'm conflicted. This consumption feels a bit hollow, but also not detrimental really. I suppose I can only take away that I would be much more comfortable not having eaten the salmon.

May 17, 2007

Just me and my starbucks gift card

A very sweet client at the dog daycare sent me a Starbucks gift card as a thank you for loving her dogs. She likes coffee as much as I do and always brings it to the daycare when she brings Abbey. That's one thing, but me stepping foot into one of the 64 Starbucks in San Francisco (49 square miles) is quite another.

Last time I got one of these I gave it to my co-worker, who stops by Starbucks frequently. But I'm not a fan of advertising for Starbucks either. I'm betting the gift card is non-refundable, which means that if I don't do something with it, then there was straight profit.

Have you ever seen the Church of Stop Shopping's actions at Starbucks? Wouldn't it be nice if we all went together to return our unwanted gift cards? Hangin' on to the idiot piece of plastic until I find a solution.

May 10, 2007

Finally some new underwear

It's been in the list of exceptions from the beginning. Compactors can buy new underwear and not feel guilty. Or so we say. From the first month of the Compact I've been asking where I could find some ecological underwear. Who's selling the socially concious, environmentally sound drawers?
I don't believe we've all gotten so in touch w/ nature that we're ridin' our bikes and planting trees commando style. I don't buy it. And I didn't buy new underwear for 2 years.
But the tips I was given by my fellow environmentalists were kinda poor. Is it a requirement that environmentalists sport white granny panties that come via post? Buying clothes is a special sort of hell for me, so convincing myself to buy clothes I'd hate was just impossible.
Last week I started thinking I should layer my holey underwear to create one whole pair. But it's more of an art/ political piece w/ the symbolic "No Bush in 2004" pair on the outside (thanks, beth!).
So yeah, I got over my hang ups and took a trip to Stonestown Mall's Victoria Secrets.
Gotcha! For real, I went to American Apparel, only to come home to a lecture from my darling housemate: "You KNOW American Apparel's NOT a good company".

May 5, 2007

Plug it Out/Gifts for Mom/ Scholarly Recap

Have you guys heard of Plug It Out? These folks are encouraging us to uplug our electronic devices from 6:30pm - 10:30 pm on Saturday, May 12th. You've got a week, make it happen. I'm thinking of hosting a small dinner followed by a bike ride to involve more people.

I'm grateful for the advice on mom gifts. It's funny, my dad and sister are stumped too. So I'm looking into jewelery cleaning or making soap at this time. Further suggestions are welcome. I'm not donating in her name and she's not into travel or writing.

In other news, my research on off-leash dog walking did not win at the CSU Student Research Competition. But I met some fabulous people! Folks working on all sorts of research. It was such a great experience.
In the same vein, I should know soon about scholarships at UCL soon. Then I'll know whether I'm moving to London this Fall or next. Wow, I look forward to getting that settled!!!! No money means no go, at least not this year. Whenever I go, I'll need to meet some London Compactors. I'm wondering what sort of anti-consumerist and environmental projects I should be aware of before I go. It's difficult to think of losing all of my networks here, but I'm excited to learn from a new perspective! I hope I find activists in London as open as my favorite orgs and idols in SF.

May 2, 2007

I love my mom!

Mother's Day is in about 10 days. And my mom's birthday is at the end of the month. I think I'm screwed. I've already donated in my Mom's name many times. She would not really enjoy a massage or something like that. She lives in the country and has everything she needs really. She knows I love her, but... I'm going to feel like an ungrateful brat if I don't come up w/ something. (I totally blew off my folks anniversary this year ):

Getting creative w/ gifts gets kinda difficult once you've done the standard alternatives for a couple of years! Suggestions?

Green DogWalks

On Friday I have the opportunity to present my research on off-leash dog recreation at the California State University Student Research Competition. I'm excited to participate, and nervous, of course.

Green DogWalks is the public outreach project that has evolved out of my study of off-leash dog walking trends at Bernal Heights Park in San Francisco. As you know, I'm a dogwalker, have been for about 7 years. Bernal Hts Park is the top 33 acres of an undeveloped hilltop in southeast SF; it's the park I go to the most. Two years ago I began an internship with the Natural Areas Program(NAP)of SF Rec and Parks Dept. I've learned tons and tons from the wonderful NAP staff, all of whom I consider my teachers.

So why study off-leash dogs? Well, Bernal Heights Park is a place for off-leash dogs and it's a Significant Natural Resource Area (SNRA) managed by the Natural Areas Program. Some folks find these two designations a bit conflicting. I see a potential partnership between stakeholders who love the park. Luckily, NAP likes my perspective and asked me to do some work on building dialogue between the agency and the dog walking community at Bernal Hill.

I did the research to get an idea of what the trends are like at the park so we know what we're dealing with in terms of volume of dogs, activities, and dispersal across the park. I found that an average of 765 dogs come to the park each day, handled by 473 people. That's a lot of potential partnerships for the community, a lot of stakeholders to help steward this park. I looked at a lot of variables that I won't bore you with here.

We took what we learned from the research and held 3 focus groups last summer to get input on how to structure our outreach project. It's been slow going on the outreach develpment, for a lot of reasons. But I created a frumpy little website for the project and did a display in the windows of the closest grocery store about the park. There was an article about the project and NAP in a dog newspaper. I've done some on site tours and outreach. Our brochure went to the designers today. We'll have that puppy out within a month, inshallah.

But we've also taken some physical steps to build bonds between NAP, native plant lovers, and dog lovers. Now, if you're not a dog lover, you might not see the value in these little steps, but trust me, they mean a lot to us. First we filled an annoying depression that would hold water long after the rain had passed. Dogs always wallowed in it, and it's a bit of a hazard in terms of giardia. Building on input from the focus groups, NAP mowed an area of low restoration value to keep it available to dogs as the foxtail season emerged. I am personally grateful for this as one of my clients is like velcro w/ foxtails. Foxtails hold the seeds of an invasive grass. They have a one way trajectory and often become lodged in dogs bodies, notably in the nose, ears, eyes, penises, toes and armpits.
Dog walkers have taken steps too. We held a poop pick up party in the fall. NAP let me write that up for their community newsletter, which means that lots of folks learned about the stewardship efforts of dog walkers. Similarly, dog walkers turned out to clean up McLaren Park the day before Earth Day. We announced that on stage to again draw those stewardship connections for folks.

I love this project. It's allowed me to bring together my love of dogs with my passion for conservation.