Sunday, October 30, 2011

Taking Stock

I started out the year with some spring crops.


Mesclun greens


And beets.
 Following spring was a fallow period while life got crazy. Then I planted tomatoes (no picture - it was not a tomato year for me) as well as

Basil (now pesto)

And astonishingly large kohlrabi.

I attempted to plant a fall crop of spinach but sowed too late, so I revised and planted garlic instead. (That's not technically a 2011 crop, since it'll come up in the spring.)

Not bad growing all this from two of these:

Self-watering container

But I bet I can do more next year. :)   What did you grow this summer? 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Tiny Houses!

Remember the forts you built as a kid? A couple of cardboard boxes can be transformed into a real place that's your own. That's when life was simple - now we pay hundreds or thousands of dollars on rent or mortgage each month. But a couple of kids grew up and thought of a solution - build tinier houses.

This Saturday morning, the rangers at Walden Pond organized a tiny house forum, fittingly held just outside the replica of Thoreau's 150 square foot cabin. The event was inspired by a movement that has gained national attention in The New Yorker, the New York Times, and NPR. Tiny houses are a DIY trend for people who are tired of mortgages and/or want to have a smaller environmental impact.

One of the speakers at the forum, Sage Radachowsky, made an awesome gypsy wagon that he parks in a driveway of understanding and friendly residents in Roslindale. Sage was adorably unfocused, rambling about swimming in Turtle Pond near his wagon, which is illegal, having a chicken coop, which is also illegal, and owning bees, which may or may not be illegal. The point, I think, was that he wants to live his life simply, magically, and without too much STUFF.

Another speaker was Derrick "Deek" Dericksen, who has become famous via his YouTube series, Tiny Yellow House and his blog, RelaxShacks. He talked about the method to his madness, recycling old junk to make whimsical little cabins. These houses are so small, they're not for living in, but picture stationing one of these out in the woods for your own affordable getaway. BYOB (bring your own book). Best of all, Deek brought examples for us to poke around in:

Deek has his own names for his creations, but I call this The Fish.

The other side of The Fish.

Inside The Fish

This might have been called the Hickshaw.

Inside the Hickshaw. (The orange artwork is original Deek.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Does Better Technology Mean a Better World?

Ok, enough blog posts about gardening and cooking. I named this blog to talk about sustainable living, so I'm going to branch out this week. I've been thinking about the title question a lot without an easy answer and recently came across two articles that seemed to be debating the same issue.

The first was Elizabeth Kolbert's book review in the New Yorker of Steven Pinker's "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined". Kolbert questions his premise, that violence has really declined as a result of statehood and civilization. She argues that we're as violent as ever: "This is one of the lessons of Auschwitz and it's why, since 1945, most people have hesitated to argue that modernity and violence are opposed."  Given the holes Kolbert pointed out in Pinker's book (such as his discounting two world wars and ignoring colonialism), I am inclined to agree with her.

The second was a blog post on Innovations, which cites several ways in which smart technology could sync different systems to help cities run more smoothly. Some, like Living PlanIt (a centralized system that would control all aspects of a city's systems, from emergency services to interior climate control) sound like a hacker invite.  But one idea that seems positively genius is conversation between cars on traffic flow. Rather than have sensors broadcasting whether a road is clear (which then attracts lots of cars and congests the road), cars broadcast their travel time to other cars, which then use that information to calculate the best route to your destination. It's smart because it's crowd-sourced, and because it's fast. The information that highway A is clear isn't outdated by the time your car gets there.

There are plenty of other examples of technology and its role as our hero or villain. I am still conflicted. What do you think - can technology solve our human woes? Or will technological advances just change the scene for the same conversation?