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Things That Don't Go Together, and Things That Do

Posted Oct 24 2010 3:25am
Things That Don't Go Together

Pyrotechnics and Organic Community Gardens

We were asked to move our cars from the community garden area "as a precaution" before 6 PM on Saturday because of the fireworks.
"Move our cars?"  I thought, considering the Dunwoody Music Festival that is going on all weekend in the 102-acre park where our community garden is located, considering my city's launch of its branding campaign after a one-year effort developing it. Considering fireworks, and all the things I don't know about them.  Considering my gut reaction.
"Hmmm, if the cars might get damaged somehow, what about the food we grow?" I thought.  A little online sleuthing revealed some unpalatable findings.  Things about the highly toxic nature of the fireworks debris, including perchlorates, particulates and metallic compounds.  Things about the fallout radius.  Things about long-term damage to air, water and soil.  Things like this .
I sent a message to City Hall.  I had two simple questions.  
"What is the launch site for the fireworks?  Is the organic community garden inside the fallout radius or outside?  If it is inside, we have a problem."  I really didn't want to be seen as crazy, but, my goodness, we've spent so much time, money and effort trying to ensure the organic integrity of that space.
Well, here, take a look at the site for yourself:


Pyrotechnics and Organic Community Gardens Don't Mix from Pattie Baker on Vimeo .


The end result?  The firework launch was originally set directly overlooking our garden.  It was moved slightly farther away (it apparently could not be moved any farther than that due to fire department permitting and not being able to change it in the short time frame). The city paid for and helped cover the garden with two enormous row covers, which our farmer gardener Rod was able to purchase from the organic farm he manages nearby.  We are very grateful for such a simple and cost-effective solution and for the city's cooperation, and we will be reusing the cloths (if they don't have debris on them) as row covers for the winter.
As many hands grasped the covers from end to end and draped them over the garden, Don remarked, "It's like an exhibit by that artist, Christo !" (It's sort of beautiful, isn't it?)

And so, our beds tucked in for the weekend, we left a sign that my daughter helped make telling people for the first time since we opened 14 months ago that the garden was closed.  I'm expecting that all is well this morning, and this is just another example of the unexpected things we "learn as we grow."

Self-Cleaning Ovens and Small Animals
But this was not my only unexpected research project this week.  There was also the "self-cleaning oven" incident.  I woke up in a panic the other night, the house smelling like it was burning down or something.  Turns out my husband turned on the self-cleaning oven feature for the first time.  He hadn't opened a window or put the vent on and I thought we were literally going to die from the toxic fumes.  

We ventilated.  We survived.  But the brand-new hamster (who was so active that we were keeping his cage in the living room so his endless running on the squeaky wheel wouldn't keep us up all night) did not.  It took a couple days for him to die, but die he did. (He's buried by the fig tree in a compostable Fair-Trade coffee bag.) (I know; it's getting ridiculous.)
Turns out self-cleaning ovens are lined with a Teflon-like surface (a product I haven't used in years in pots and pans due to alleged findings about its toxicity when heated to high temperatures).  Turns out they emit things like carbon monoxide and formaldehyde.  Turns out there's a long list of incidences of bird deaths following oven cleaning.  Turns out some oven care instructions include a mention about removing birds and small animals when using this feature.  Turns out baking soda and water works just as well.
And, of course, that leads to the inevitable wondering--if the birds and hamsters die from it . . .  let's just not go there, okay?  Let's just say "canary in the coal mine" and leave it at that. 
And Things That Do Go Together
Children and Healthy Food
Did you hear the latest report that 1 in 3 Americans are expected to have diabetes by 2050 if current obesity trends continue?  Today's schoolchildren will be moms, dads, business leaders, city councilors, volunteers, artists, organic farmers, scientists, engineers, doctors, computer programmers, and a bunch of occupations that don't yet exist.  Those with diabetes may also experience complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, amputations, and more.  The time for making a change in our future is now.  One child, one healthy meal makes a difference.  
* Three children in my daughter's class in the city that just branded itself as Smart People-Smart Place had never in their life tasted lettuce before they harvested it from right outside their classroom door. Almost half the class does not regularly eat salad. See the post about this here.
* A young cashier at Whole Foods recently did not know what a sweet potato was. She asked me what to do with it and took notes.  This child (holding the sweet potato in the picture) knows what it is because she picked it. (She also brought it into preschool for show-and-tell, and then cooked it and ate it at home.)
* Some people in my city are advocating for another fast-food drive-through , although doing so may preclude fulfillment of the stated objectives of our Comprehensive Land Use Plan which includes land use decisions to make a more walkable, bike-friendly city.
* About a fifth of America's children are hungry on a daily basis, and many live without access to healthy food. At our local food pantry, the number of clients served increased from 65 families to 75 families this week. We had our first harvest from the new garden on Wednesday.
Sunny spots for growing are everywhere.  I just offered my volunteer services to try to establish a team to clean out, cover crop and then cultivate an existing garden at the Atlanta Jewish Community Center which is currently used only for summer campers .  We could grow food for those in need (a disproportionate number of whom are children) from February to May and then again from September to December.  Soil like this shouldn't sit when it can change lives.  Stay tuned!

JCC Garden Could Be More Productive from Pattie Baker on Vimeo .


P.S. I'd like to give a big thanks to the new newspaper, The Dunwoody Reporter, that just launched Friday in our city, for featuring my community gardening efforts (this article is apparently included in four different city newspapers, with a total readership of 130,000).  I'm a little embarrassed by the kind words that my friends said about me in the article (thank you, Bob and Rebecca), but I'm linking here in the hopes that it will help connect me with more ways to dig in and serve as a catalyst to food-growing opportunities close to home and around the world.
 

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