Jun 24, 2008

Gumtree? London's Craigslist?

Help me out if you know, I found this site, gumtree.com, that seems like a Craigslist for London. In my limited experience, Craigslist London is a mess of commercial advertising (as in rental agencies pushing rooms). But then I stumbled on Gumtree and saw houseshare ads there that actually looked possible. And it seemed like a place where I might post to find or actually see an ad for collective housing.

And there's a free section!

Using tried and true Craigslist here, I got rid of one of my bikes yesterday. The woman that I sold it to is just getting into cycling. I talked to her a lot about bike styles (I had one of each to show her) and other considerations for urban cycling. It was empowering to help another woman find independent transportation, even in the small way that I contributed.

Hurray, only 3 more bikes to go! I've listed about 15 things on Craigslist this week. And I started some runs to Community Thrift. Time to downsize. I'm kind of into it actually. It's a bit rewarding, liberating to vanish my wares. Of course, my commitment to getting rid of stuff has forced me into a lot of sticker scraping with razor blades. I don't buy stickers, but something about radical communities necessitates slapping art or slogans on adhesive backed glossy paper. And NorCal is pretty sticker crazy. Everything I own is plastered: Laptops, bikes, noteboooks, some ugly furniture. It's kinda funny now that I'm removing them to pass on my stuff.

Jun 20, 2008

Sunny Days in the Yard

It's a great time of year for locavores in California. We're fortunate to have access to loads of fresh fruit and vegetables from nearby organic farms. I've bought a few pineapples lately, even though they're from more than 100 miles away. They're in season as far north as they ever are, so it's the best time of year to enjoy them, if you're a huge fan like me.

My garden is a mess! I lost over half of my vegetables to the feral cats. Bugs have torn into a couple of the ones I have left. The lettuce is doing really well but I don't really think I'm going to be able to eat it. Despite this feral cat obstacle course, our garden patch has become their litterbox. I'm so annoyed.

I love animals, so the situation with the feral cats has been difficult. They were mostly here when we moved in 4.5 years ago. A neighbor died and his wife dumped his unspayed cat outdoors to live the rest of her days. She had her last litter about a month after we moved in. We helped with the Trap - Neuter- Release of that last litter. Or we tried too. We didn't get any cats in our traps but they were all rounded up that year.

Our neighbor used to feed them. Then he was evicted (Owner Move In eviction and the place is still empty 25 mo's later) and asked us to feed them. I said no, because I get too attached, but Blake, my housemate, took up the task. This year we stopped feeding them because I really want our yard to be open to birds. A new neighbor feeds them two backyards away anyway. So now they eat there and shit here. So frustrating. But we've got birds, bees, and butterflies in our yard now, somethings we didn't have before. Our plums aren't just rotting on the ground, the birds are picking clean the ones we don't take. And we do leave a lot of them because the cats shit right under part of the tree, so we don't eat anything that falls there.

I've posted on Freecycle for some chicken wire because the cinder-block/tomato cage attempt is failing. I just don't think I can risk toxoplasmosis for my lettuce. And the smell of cat shit is really not appetizing if you're running out to pick something fresh for dinner.

But I really love growing my own food, even just a tiny bit of it. We're still watering everything with greywater from the shower. In fact, soapy water seems to quell the bugs if I pour it on the leaves. And my yarrow is attracting lady bugs, which I hope will start to check whatever's eating my broccoli.

All of the natives are doing very well. The viola penduncalata came into seed! I'm collecting that seed and horkelia, yarrow, bee plant, clarkia, and fringe cups. I'm giving some back to the guy who grew these plants, Greg Gaar, who runs a native plant nursery out of the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Coalition's recycling center. Some I'm giving to another naturalist guru, Jake Sigg, who needs local seed from natives for a restoration project. And some to my teacher friend, Holly, who works with youth on horticulture projects. It's rewarding to be part of the cycle.

Jun 16, 2008

Moving Madness

In getting ready for the transcontinental move from SF to London, I'm facing stuff dilemmas. Toss it, take it, stash it?

Tossing stuff might mean getting rid of something via Freecycle or the Really Really Free Market. Somethings I further debate the merits of selling. I greatly prefer giving stuff away, but I need money for grad school so I might sell some electronic items. But thinking that I'm going to sell some things seems to be slowing the downsizing process.

Taking it? Still agonizing over what to take with me. Which bike? Which shitty, unreliable laptop? Trivial stuff like notebooks that are tough to find used but may be more environmentally detrimental to ship than to buy new? Subcategory of taking it includes, when to take it? Ship it later, carry it on the plane. Ugh. I hate moving.

Stash it? An awesome client is letting me stash some stuff in her basement. I have reservations as I don't want a pile of stuff to entice me back to SF if there are opportunities elsewhere. But, if I end up coming back here anyway for my cats and friends, what a pain in the ass to have to replace my bed, dresser, etc. I wouldn't really care, I'm not tied to the actual things, but I'm going to be sooooo broke when I get back. Paying for new stuff seems unrealistic, and since I have a free place to put it...

These aren't huge problems, but they are annoyances that make getting out of town more stressful. In some ways, I find having to deal with my crap to be a fine incentive to downsize. I'm shocked at how much shit I have, even as a Compactor. I've got so much art/activist stuff (paper, paint, tools, rope, etc) that I might even donate back to SCRAP. I think that's hilarious, myself. I've got electronics waiting for me to figure out how to recycle them. Mostly I still don't know what to do w/ headphones, crapped out storage drives, etc. Oh the learning. I've picked up a lot of used stuff as a Compactor. Still not thinking about what I'm going to do with it all when it's broken or obsolete. Oh the learning.

Jun 6, 2008

Green DogWalks Community Reportback

I'm holding a community reportback on the Green DogWalks project next Thursday at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center. I really hope people come. I've found it difficult in the past to get folks out to this sort of thing, but I want to give myself some closure on the project before I head off to grad school . 

I'm going to do a presentation on the entire project, starting with the initial data collection on off-leash dog walking trends in 2006. Then I'll talk about the outreach goals and implementation. And I'll finish the presentation with the newest data collection from this spring. So many folks came up to me while I was taking those data to ask what I was doing. I hope that some of those folks show up to hear about it. 

After the presentation there will be a discussion period. I want to get some feedback on how people perceive the project. What do people want to see happen with future outreach efforts? I've invited some land managers, naturalists, animal welfare agencies, in addition to neighborhood stakeholders and professional dog walkers. 

I have poster invitations up in the kiosks at the park, and quarter sheet fliers for people to take home with them. And I have the entire sustainable dog walking poster series in the local grocery store's display windows (thank you, Good Life Grocery!). I put letter sized fliers up at Hazel and Gertie's and two  other critter supply shops, some dog daycares, etc. I've got about 10 professional dog walkers sending the fliers out to their clients. And wow have I emailed every list and individual that I can think of. 

I feel like such a geek but I really want to share what I've learned so that folks can learn from my mistakes and my good choices. I've laid a bit of a foundation for further work on sustainable dog walking in San Francisco. I hope that bringing interested people together will show others who might want to pursue this that there is indeed support for positive outreach around dogs in natural areas. 

 It might be a bit of a tough room depending on the crowd. But Amber Hasselbring of art-eco.org has offered to facilitate so that takes some pressure off of me. We have ground rules for participation and an objective facilitator to enforce them so I feel like we're set for success when it comes to having a productive discussion. 

Anyway, I'll report back on the reportback. 

Jun 4, 2008

Trying to Find Comfort in the Absence of Retail Therapy

There was definitely a  time in my life where a day like today (or series of days that have made this week) would have sent me to Valencia Street in search of a new book, a new bag, cat toys, whatever. Two and a half years ago I would have replaced my frustration with my financial situation with receipts and synthetic fibers. I've never been one to shop into debt. But I'm more aware now that if I shop because I'm pissed about my class status, then I'm basically celebrating  that paradigm. 

And yeah, it's my class status that's getting me down. A client canceled a really big job today with 4 days notice (no fault of mine). And I got a letter from my graduate school that raised my projected expenses by about 10% (fuck you exchange rate and the rising cost of EVERYTHING). Just when you think you've raised half of your graduate school's outrageous expenses, things get more expensive. 

So I called my dad to tell him that we have to reconfigure our trip from San Francisco to Atlanta so I can work a few extra weeks. My dad tried to comfort me by telling me that I'll get more established and have a higher income later in life. He told me that when he married my mom in 1975, that he made $150 per week. My dad's a high school graduate, my mom is not. I'm guessing that their combined income was about $250 per week. I don't understand inflation, but that seems really impossible, especially since they had a kid a year later. How the hell did they do that? Wow. 

Climbing the economic ladder is not my goal in life. I'm terribly afraid of heights. But the school debt dilema is back since the numbers have gone up. It's not like I'm lazy. I actually work really hard and enjoy my work (dog walker, house sitter, weeder, public outreach worker are my paid gigs). And I do a lot of work for low cost or free on the outreach stuff. I like working on non-paid stuff like Earth Day, the infoshop, March 19th, radical restoration, etc. (And fyi, the Compact doesn't pay in terms of interviews and blogging, though it definitely pays in money saved.) I'm so afraid I won't be able to organize after grad school because I'll be a slave to my debt. 

I guess I'm doubly frustrated because nothing ever seems to be easy. Example: Yesterday I was in tears making the ugliest flier for my Green DogWalks reportback. It's not bad enough that I'm out of pocket on this reportback, but making the thing had to be a nightmare too. Yeah, nothing's easy. Shopping would be so easy! But I don't even want to shop. 

Weird but true. I can't think of anything that I really want. I have all the physical things that I really need. Maybe 2.5 years of the Compact has made me too practical. When I think of things that I would shop for, the strangest crap comes to mind. Like ink. Or socks. Who gets inspired enough by ink or socks to ride a bike to go get them? 

Would ink or socks give me some weird shoppers euphoria? I doubt it. Christ, I might prefer the illusion that something could take the despondency away. I say "seemed" because the comfort in depressive purchases was fleeting. I don't really show things off or take pleasure in getting fancy so it I can't even drag out the pleasure of retail therapy. I guess the bonus in being immune to retail therapy is that I don't have to fear any shopper's remorse.