Category Archives: Green Living

Urban Gardening by Bike, Take 2

Last summer, I shared my adventure of creating an urban garden on my small balcony.  I am sad to announce that none of those plants survived the winter.  I brought the herbs inside when cold weather set in, but soon had to throw them away after I found tiny bugs all over them.  Sad.

This summer, I’m starting fresh.  On Sunday evening, my friend Sara and I took a class on plant propagation at Sprout, a cozy gardening shop in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood.  Plant propagation is making a new plant out of an existing plant.

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Sara and I biked to Sprout separately and left Betty and Poppy outside to spend quality time together on the rack.

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Meanwhile, we were inside the beautiful shop, learning how to clone plants by dividing their roots or clipping their leaves.

After an informative hour, we each got to take home five baby plants: an orchid, lemon button fern, acalypha, sanseviertia and begonia.  These will all be house plants, so I don’t have to worry about the winter freeze.  As long as I keep them away from my cats (they love munching on leaves) and remember to water them, everything should be fine.

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We were very proud of our baby plants!  ;-)

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The little guys made it home safely, although quite shaken up after traveling over Chicago’s notorious potholes.

I plan to take more classes at Sprout, including one of their upcoming classes on terrariums.  (There’s also a Sprout location in Brooklyn.)

Who else is trying their hand at gardening this summer?  Any tips to share on houseplants?

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Made in the USA

Deciding to ride a bicycle for transportation in a place like the US, after years of driving a car everywhere like everyone else, required that I step back and really question the system that I’d accepted all my life.  Through this, I realized the absurdity of using a ton of metal to carry myself a couple of miles.   This one change has naturally led to reconsidering other aspects of modern society.

Fresh on my mind, following Black Friday, is consumerism.  I love a good sale and I am far from a minimalist, with my collections of tchotchkes and overflowing bookshelves, but I feel that objects I bring into my home should have meaning and reflect my beliefs.  I do not always live up to this standard, but I’ve been making a conscious effort to buy clothing that was made in the USA or another country known for craftsmanship and decent working conditions, like the UK, France, Italy and Canada.  I know this is a complicated issue and many lives are improved by factory jobs overseas, but I personally feel better spending my money in a way that does not support corporations’ race to the bottom.  (See “Garment Workers Stage Angry Protest After Bangladesh Fire” and the Clean Clothes Campaign.)  Of course, I am lucky enough to have the time and resources for this, but so do most Americans.  No one is perfect (I’m typing this on an Apple computer, with its Foxconn manufacturing issues, after all) but that should not stop us from thinking about the issue and making small changes where we can.

Finding products that fit my criteria is, unfortunately, harder than it sounds, but prevents me from buying a lot of crap – avoiding fast fashion and focusing on quality over quantity.  And over time, I’ve built quite a nice collection.  Last Friday, I realized that everything I was wearing was made in the USA.  This made me happy.  :-)

My silk blouse and wool skirt are by Steven Alan, boots by Samantha Pleet for Wolverine (a birthday present), tights by Commando (the most comfortable ever), underthings by All USA Clothing, and earrings by Chic Gems.

(Hint on Steven Alan: twice a year he has online sample sales.  The fall sale just ended, unfortunately.  My skirt was $30 marked down from $225!)

As Mr. Dottie pointed out, the only exception to the outfit above is me: made in Germany.  And here is my wonderful mother who made me, visiting Chicago for Thanksgiving.  :-)

In regards to bicycles, I have one made in the Netherlands, one in Germany, and one in Taiwan.  As much as I absolutely love my Betty Foy in every way, part of me wishes that I saved my money longer to buy a made in the USA frame, like a Sweetpea or ANT.

How do you feel about this issue?  Do you have any shopping rules to counter thoughtless consumerism?

If you have tips on favorite businesses that manufacture in the USA, please share in the comments!

{p.s. another good way to shop – and cut down on waste – is to go for vintage style with secondhand savvy.}

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A Concept Comes To Life: People Spots

A fun concept has popped up in Chicago this summer: people spots!  These public areas, also called parklets, are created simply by reclaiming two to three on-street parking spots and setting up tables and chairs to encourage community.

I happened upon this people spot featured below while biking down Lincoln Avenue, conveniently located in front of Heritage bike shop and cafe.  This people spot will be a permanent feature, except during winter for snow plowing purposes, and you can read more about this parklet here.

What a lovely addition to my neighborhood!  I’m so happy that the Alderman and the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce are embracing the vision of a people-centered community.  Surely more of these people spots would help local businesses and property values, in addition to bringing residents together.  Cities need more of this forward-thinking and action.

Have you seen people spots popping up where you live?  Isn’t this such a fun idea?!

 

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Urban Gardening by Bike

I am a city girl, but sometimes I complain about not having a yard and google Asheville farmhouses.  A classic “grass is greener” situation.  In reality, I have never displayed a green thumb and barely use my only outdoor space, a small wooden balcony.  Admitting this to myself, I decided to embrace what I have fully, instead of uselessly dreaming of what I do not have.  The result is my new urban garden!  My south-facing balcony gets strong direct sunlight for most of the day and finding plants that thrive in such an environment was easy.

On Saturday, I biked to my neighborhood garden center (Fertile, for locals) and loaded up on flowers: roses, begonias, daisies, and a window box for mounting.

To transport the plants, I simply zip-tied to my front rack a wine crate that Mr. Dottie found in our alley (free!).  This served the purpose splendidly.  The plants were packed in enough that they did not jostle or fall over.

Back at my condo, I transferred the flowers to bigger pots with more soil.  Lucky for me, I snapped up several terra-cotta pots that my neighbor left in the basement when she moved (free!).  These were a big score, as transporting heavy pots would have been difficult.

I learned via gardening blogs that I need some larger material at the bottom of my pots, below the soil, to help with drainage and avoid root rot.  I had enough wine corks for the first pot, but then I was at a loss and not up for another trip to the store.  Mr. Dottie came up with a plan to collect rocks from under nearby L tracks, which sounded kinda gross, but after only a few handfuls each – and after picking out the broken glass – we were set (free!).  :)

On Sunday, I returned to the garden center for herbs and vegetables.  Same bike set up as before.  I got sage, rosemary, basil, thyme, tomatoes, and banana peppers!

 Mr. D stuffed another flower box in his pannier.

Then we got back to work potting.  Getting my hands in the dirt – like a kid again – was fun, even though the dirt came from a bag.  (I was able to buy organic potting soil from the nearby grocery store, allowing me to walk home carrying the bags and avoid loading the bike up.)

Now I have a real live urban garden – complete with herbs, veggies, and flowers.  Once I prove to myself that I can keep these guys alive, I plan to go back for more.  And I’m working on some seedlings (green beans, catnip, flowers) that hopefully will join the rest of the gang outside soon.

As a final touch, I scored two barely-used patio arm chairs from Craigslist, which the seller delivered for a small extra fee.

I could not be more excited about my tiny urban garden!  Now I can sit outside and enjoy my personal oasis.  :)

Plus, I’ve already roasted a chicken using my own herbs – delish!

Does anyone else have an urban garden?  Or do you have an actual yard with an actual garden??  I’d love to hear stories and tips.

{Two helpful blogs I used as resources: Urban Organic Gardener  and Life on the Balcony.}

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