Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Plants and Energy

Knoxville Land Scout Liz sent me a link to this smart and attractive project by Jihyun Ryou: Saving Food From the Fridge. Her elegant designs address the specific needs of the plants and products we store without depending on an energy-intensive behemoth like a refrigerator. I especially like the looks of the Verticality of Root Vegetables shelf below -- although I'm imagining getting home from the co-op with a bunch of carrots and spilling sand everywhere as I try to load them into my art piece cum vegetable storage shelf. Could this work more simply (although less attractively) with a wooden planter or a stainless steel bucket? 

Ryou has invited others to share their food saving techniques on her tumblr stream: Not surprisingly, most of the submissions so far come from outside the United States. One of us in the muggy southeast could add a tip about filling your salt shaker with rice to keep the humidity down. Do you have any good analog methods for storing food? Send them in to Ryou's stream. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Squirrel Death and Modern Anxiety

One of the things that led me to create the Urban Land Scouts was thinking about the point where the DIY elements of sustainability push up against and get in the way of our modern desires and habits. The local and sustainable food movements are some of my favorite examples of this tension.

As modern consumers we can enjoy a wide range of foods almost any time of year. If we seek to cut out some of the hidden costs and destructive elements of those foods-- things like long-distance shipping, inhumane and unsafe labor conditions, and toxic and dangerous agricultural and animal husbandry processes-- we must move towards a more diet that is limited or outlined by our bioregion and seasons. I am interested in the specifics of what such a diet demands and whether or not those elements are reasonable, scalable, and/or efficient.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Work it to Earn it : field books

At our last ULS meeting there were three scouts with completed observation books. Yes! Below are examples from two of those observant scouts, Adan and Jennifer Akerman. In addition to being very nice people and enthusiastic scouts, the Akermans have a neat company called Akertoys. I think you can see some of their design sensibilities in these two examples from their field books. Above is Jennifer's drawing and musings about moss and at right is Adan's close up drawing of a "very straight stem."

If you live in the Knoxville area and haven't been out to one of the workshops at Three Rivers Market, I want to encourage you to join us. If you don't live in Knoxville you can still get started earning your OBSERVATION badge.

Here's how to make a quick small field journal to fill with your observations. Take three sheets of office paper and fold them in half hamburger-style (for the more literal-minded, that's on 5.5" mark on the Y-axis). Cut them in half following the fold so you end up with six sheets each 5.5" x 8.5". Fold each of these in half and nest them together. If you'd like to include the Urban Land Scout pledge and ten core values in your book, you can download and print out this file and print it double-sided.

Next find a sturdy material like poster board, canvas, vinyl, thick paper, etc. and cut a cover slightly larger than the pages (around 6" x 9" should be ample) and fold it in half. Tuck the nest of pages into the cover and stitch or staple the pages and cover together. Waxed dental floss or embroidery floss are both good-- you want something a little thicker than sewing thread.

Once you've finished your book take it (and a pen or pencil) out on a walk and fill it with your drawings and notes. If you're stumped for what to draw or write use the observation words below as prompts. (These vocabulary words are also helpful if you're introducing the ideas of outdoor observation to a young person).
  • shape
  • scale or size
  • texture
  • color
  • quantity
  • location
When you've filled 90-100% of your book you can turn it in (or email photos/scans of it) to me and receive your OBSERVATION badge, the foundation of Urban Land Scouts.