Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Nelson Mandela – Prisoner, Rooftop Food Gardener

“A garden was one of the few things in prison that one could control. To plant a seed, watch it grow, to tend it and then harvest it, offered a simple but enduring satisfaction. The sense of being the custodian of this small patch of earth offered a taste of freedom..."

Via City Farmer.

Friday, December 6, 2013

How to Raise Chickens Without Buying Grain

I've had chickens for 3 years and have always fed them "chicken" feed, which isn't all that cheap, or practical.

I like the solution in the video but wonder how I could adapt it to my urban setting.

Friday, November 29, 2013


I saw this post on Hoshigaki by our friends at Root Simple and knew what I wanted to do when I found persimmons at our local veg market -- I bought 6 and started making it (them?).

The left and right ones in the top row are a little mushy. Not sure if they're going to dry properly.

This Instructable has even more detailed, well, instructions.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Friday, October 4, 2013

Making End of Season Fermented Vegetables

Using basil and tiny eggplants from my rooftop, along with green plum tomatoes and grape leaves from the community garden, I'm trying Sandy Katz's recipe from his book "Wild Fermentation".

Clockwise, starting from the upper left corner: Dill seeds and black pepper, green plum tomatoes and baby Green Thai and Little Fingers eggplant. Garlic, grape leaves, basil and one little hot pepper.

All packed in a plastic container. Not having a glass, or ceramic, crock, Katz's advice was to use a "food grade" plastic container.

The brine poured in and the veggies held under with a plate. I'll check for mold, skimming it off the surface if present, and wait 1-4 weeks for them to cure at room temperature.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

"Symphony of the Soil"

Although I have seen a number of very good documentaries on organic farming, “Symphony of the Soil” is the first to ground them (excuse me for the bad pun) in soil chemistry. The first half of the film is a guided tour of various locales by some of the world’s leading soil chemists, ranging from fjords to rain forests, with an emphasis on how soil becomes fertile. Like most people, I suppose, the idea of listening to a scientist explain the differences between different kinds of soil might seem dry as dust (excuse me for another bad pun) but it is almost impossible not to be swept along by their passion. In some ways the film is a throwback to the classic Disney nature films of the 1950s like “The Living Desert”. If you loved those films as a kid, you will find “Symphony of the Soil” impossible to resist. If you have kids, this is the quintessential family film.

Monday, September 30, 2013


TEY-Today Trailer for US release.. from Guetty Felin on Vimeo.
Saul Williams' comeback to cinema is in the form of a beautiful, sensual, humane tale, directed by Alain Gomis.

In a village outside Dakar, the gods – or the stars, or destiny, have spoken: Satché must die by the end of the day. Until nightfall, the film follows him making his goodbyes to those around him – his family, his friends, his lover, his children, his wife. Initially fêted by his community with an enthusiasm tainted by melancholy, Satché, the one chosen to disappear, soon finds himself set apart from those closest to him, in beautiful scenes that seek to show those elements of friendship, desire, sadness, affection and anger that are usually left unsaid.

Also staring Djolof Mbengue, Anisia Uzeyman and Aîsa Maîga

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Thursday, August 22, 2013

August Bounty: Jimmy Nardello, Provider Beans, and Kale Keeps Coming

Beloved weatherman Tom Skilling says there were 40 days in the 90s by this time last year--nearly six times as many as 2013. Hence the cool-weather-loving greens like the kale above, still sweet and the plants productive.

Apparently we've had enough heat for the Jimmy Nardello peppers, a big producer that's at the top of my grow list. As are those Provider Beans. 

Reminding myself with no tomatoes left (except a few black cherries) that a month ago we picked six pounds of rooftop produce, most of it tomatoes. Planting a month early does shift maturity dates.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Friday, August 2, 2013

Story of Sidewalk Koi

Before we begin,
say happy birthday to the koi artiste
As he tells it: I saw the koi image first in my twitter feed and went looking for more. Jeremy Novy painted them in San Francisco a year or two ago. I like their calming effect.  Combined with the view not in a pool, but in concrete. Some kind of cognitive dissonance going on. Plus they're cool.

Koi in our doorway, awaiting their final screen of dots

I wanted to bring a bit of that to my block (and now to ours). Serendipity, playfulness.
Slightly risque, as in a little illegal. (H2 notes: but maybe not as risque as looking up pressure cookers online.)

First the pieces are laid out on our floor
A decision is taken on how to start. It's a big question.

Outside, positioning the initial spray is key
 We want them to look like they're schooling

Next comes the edging:
black on white or other contrasting color 
See the register holes in the file folders? They're chalked in with pink for the first spray and then the holes are lined up over the pink for each successive spray to ensure a cohesive fish.

Between drying stages we ate chocolate cake with ganache frosting.
T'was an engaging process and a fun afternoon. People stopped to talk, one couple preparing their baby's nursery pondering wall-swimming koi.

The koi are turning up everywhere. Here on a scooter Bruce garbage-picked and repaired for a young neighbor friend. Classy, that.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Sidewalk Koi

How does this...
Turn into this?
Stay tuned. (and click on through)

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

62 Years Of Earth Warming in 13 Seconds

Via NASA, a heart-stopping 13-second animation that shows how temperatures have warmed up since 1950. More here.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Julia Child Tomato

Picked this 3/4 pound+ Julia Child yesterday, a beauty.

Nestled in with three pounds of food, including a Cosmonaut Volkov tomato at top. A bountiful time of the season.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Ping Pong

Cleared out a pile of half finished projects and put a nice ping pong table out in the shop. Just enough room to have a decent game.

We bought a floor model from Mr. Ping Pong, who is about 1/2 mile away on Chicago Ave. Out of the same building he runs Mr. Flower and a U-haul franchise in addition to a ping pong school. When I walked in a girl was doing hitting drills with a pro in an otherwise empty room of tables. Cool place.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Eggplant Little Fingers

If you like a quick-cooking eggplant with generous yields that arrives early in the season, Little Fingers is for you.

Our seeds from Bountiful Gardens were strong and sure and the plants themselves have withstood weeks of blistering heat on our roof (and I do mean blistering--up to 120 degrees F some days).
With climate change, few tomato varieties can grow up there any more, but that's another post. Check out the flourishing Little Fingers, with dozens of blooms. Our normal-sized Thai green eggplant fruit is just emerging.
The growing habit of Little Fingers is unusual, with a single stem putting out several smaller stems, each with a flower followed by a fruit. We sauteed some chopped last weekend with some Jimmy Nardello peppers (also doing well this season--and every hot season) and garlic and added them to raw tomatoes, feta, and kalamata olives. Good food.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Drop in Monarch Population Overwintering in Mexico order to compensate for the continued loss of habitat we need to plant LOTS AND LOTS of milkweed. To assure a future for monarchs, conservation and restoration of milkweeds needs to become a national priority.
The factors involved in the declining numbers are worth a quick read.

Friday, July 19, 2013


Loggers and the giant Mark Twain redwood cut down in California, 1892.  Photograph by N.E. Beckwith
Click on image for larger view.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

First Rooftop Tomato of the Season - Cosmonaut Volkov

Turned into lunch alongside white bean salad with red onion, chives, rosemary, garlic and sherry vinaigrette.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Six Pounds of Rooftop Produce

That's how much I picked this morning. Honestly, the amount of vegetables we're able to grow up there continues to surprise me.

Is everything perfect? No, the skins on some of the tomatoes are tough owing to weird weather swings. That yellow-orange Dr Wyche in the middle is looking particularly haggard.

And some of the tomato plants--victims of Chicago's week-long 95-degree F temps (10 to 20 degrees hotter on the roof) and some sort of wilty looking disease--seem like they might give up the ghost after a single flush of fruit.
It's easy to get caught up in growing projects that haven't worked (I should have tagged them). I often remind myself the only reason we moved to the roof was because our garden beds got too shaded by trees to support growing produce.

Six pounds picked today

More than enough for lunch: last of the greens, luscious Provider beans, a few tomatoes (chicken shown but not grown).

What have we learned after five growing seasons up there? Some plants are reliable producers each and every year, despite variables like weather extremes, blight, etc. In this category I'd put:
For a while I've wondered what this blog was all about. After today's trip to the roof I think it might be the story of feeling immensely content as we eat what we've grown.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Friday, July 12, 2013

Happy Friday

Here's a nice roast chicken fresh from the grill...

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Eating First Rooftop Tomatoes 2013

We ate all five of the early tomatoes we picked yesterday, warm-to-nearly hot from the roof. I picked this one, a Matina, this morning along with three more. 


“A cooked tomato is like a cooked oyster: ruined.”
Andre Simon (1877-1970)
A Concise Encyclopedia of Gastronomy

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Tatsoi in Early July

Still happy on the roof in their SIPs (sub-irrigated planters, these from Menard's) after our week away. In fact fun to see the tatsoi grow this large. We usually pick it smaller.

Seed from Hudson Valley Seed Library, much of it saved from previous years. At left are HVSL's braising greens, a nice mix.