Community Outreach -The Public is the Number One Enemy

DafCU

“Beauty and the Beast” – Wilkinsburg, PA

The following poem was written about one year ago… It was written during an event that occurred on my street in Wilkinsburg… This event was the ultimate reason my wife and I decided to move out of Wilkinsburg… CBS WTAE – The following poem is dedicated to the memory of Bruce Kelly Jr. – I do not believe he deserved to die… I think it is sad that 24 highly trained police officers could not subdue a drunk man with a knife…

I am scared… Scared of the community I live in…

Not for the crime… The thugs drugs or gangs…
Not for the fact that a black bandana hangs…
Off the face of a young man… Inner city common unity…
The colors of my neighborhood… A forgotten community…

I dream of death and destruction… I dream of violent scenes…
Gun shots and crack rocks are the subject of ghetto dreams…
Abandoned homes like leaning gravestones… Waiting to be sold…
Outnumbering the homeless who are sleeping in the cold…

I am scared of a thin blue line… Thugs with authority…
Thugs that hate the general public and are willing to kill a minority…
Urban blight is a product of officially shunning gumption……
The goal is to board up enough to dilute the real corruption…

We are all enemies of the state… We are on the wrong side of the line…
We all share in the fact that our lives are worth less than a k9…
The first amendment is a joke… We only have rights in silence…
To open your mouth is nothing more than an invite to violence…

Police station threshold is where the daily war begins…
Inside the temple the soldiers discuss their win… The war against us…
The war against the general public… Public enemy number one…
Your money paid for the bullet that killed you… It even paid for the gun…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

 

farm4

“Green Fields” – The Barn at Soergel Hollow – Evans City, PA – This photograph was taken the week my wife and I were watching our friends farm… It was also the week we decided to get married… Also the place where we got married…

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Not Meant to Last – Blink and You’ll Miss It

comment

White variation of a Red Trillium – Trillium erectum var. Alba – Frick Park – Pittsburgh, PA

City silence is relative… Sound is a product of heat…
When the streets get hot people take to their feet…
Thunderstorm rumble can’t cover up the past…
A neighborhood is temporary… It’s not meant to last…

Endless parade of status… Gawking single file…
White and well dressed… Dollar sign smile…
Marching against the poor to finally repent..
Divided class rising… Dead presidents represent…

We all stand up and march against the violence…
Yet the problem is the cause… The cause is silence…
The poor are nothing more than the con of the rich…
Living on minimum wage… Being a corporate bitch…

Breezy evening dreaming… Life is always in the air…
Feet on the sidewalk and clean without a care…
Classifieds because of the church… Meeting of commons…
The rich get a bill… The poor get a summons…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

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Spring Beauty and Abandoned Blight

This gallery contains 5 photos.

Red branches reaching… The sky is sleeping… Gray skies and thunder rolling… The clouds are weeping… Saturday evening darkness leads to sunny Sunday mornings… Float away to greener lands away from city warnings… The trees reach out to me… Waving tiny branches… Always be alert to step away from shady glances… Understand empathy… Practice individuality… […]

Complementary Gardening – The Energy of a Vacant Lot

© chriscondello 2013

“Clover Sunset” – Summer 2013 – Hamnett Place Community Garden – Wilkinsburg, PA

So… I am in the process of writing a book… The name of which is yet to be determined… I actually like that… Yet to be determined… The book is a gardening book… It will include original photography… Poetry… And artwork… Though I see all my gardens as art… I guess my goal in writing this book is to make you see like that… You can be the judge… This is a piece of a chapter… It is currently unedited… This is just a preview… I may post another tomorrow…

Life and the events surrounding it create energy fields that accompany those who live it. These energy fields are a physical manifestation of the metaphysical realm that are commonly misinterpreted. The overall tone of this energy is a variable based on many factors, but is typically a snapshot of an individual’s emotions and spirit in life. Many people believe that this energy goes with you whenever you die. I personally believe just the opposite. I believe the energy remains here on earth. It is never destroyed and therefore has a continuing role in the lives of those left behind.

Soil, is a product of nature and death. Living organisms must be sacrificed to make it rich in nutrients. Metaphysical energy is similar in that it needs to be created by life. It requires a human to store it within themselves, and ultimately transfer it to something else. In its most basic form, the transfer of DNA into the soil when we are working with it is a physical connection from our bodies to the earth. When a human being touches a plant, a transfer occurs that not many people even think of. Our skin wears off onto the plant, and the plant rubs off on our skin. This direct connection is only scraping the outer layer of the concept, the depths of which are only limited by your beliefs.

Vacant urban lots are interesting in that they very often contained a house at one time. A home is an energy magnet, and most people immediately feel it upon entering a home. The energy that is found is a direct result of past events and emotions. A home that is one-hundred years old has built up a massive amount of energy. When a home is demolished, the energy remaining does not go the way of the house, it is rooted in the lot. This energy cannot be destroyed, and I don’t believe it has the ability to travel. So the energy just waits for someone to come along and do something with it, and that someone is you.

To facilitate rapid population booms, our urban centers developed rather quickly. Lots that were originally intended to include one house, were quickly sub-divided and often had four houses built instead of the intended single. Neighborhoods were eventually built so tightly, green space became almost non-existent. Flash forward to today and you will notice that although many of these urban neighborhoods still exist. You will still see the scars of past bad memories dotting the landscape. A home burning down, or a bank foreclosure are not happy experiences, therefore the energy created is rarely positive. This is not a reason for despair, negative energy can always be converted into positive energy through gardening.

Urban gardening is just one method of achieving this energy change. In my own experiences, this energy change has the ability to help people forget the events that lead to the bad energy in the first place. Abandoned homes and vacant lots often sit unused for years. These monuments of negativity are a part of the reason many of these neighborhoods can’t get out of the rut they are in. Blight and abandonment carry very negative energy. A home does not become abandoned for good reasons. Likewise, an empty urban lot often has a story to tell as well… And that story is never a good one…

Gardening is one of the few positive influences an individual can have on the negative energy created by blight. Though much of the general population believes the only way to change a blighted neighborhood is through demolition and rebuilding, or remodeling. One of the most important aspects of permaculture, is the inclusion of all species. Humans always seem to feel that they are the primary element, when in fact we are just a tiny part of the system as a whole. The empty spaces that pop up in our urban landscapes are there for a reason. This reason will vary, but in most cases over-crowding is evident. When a space does open up, it is of paramount importance that we claim it for nature.

When an abandoned house is demolished, the second and third floors are stripped and thrown in a dumpster. The remaining structure is crushed into the basement, and then covered over with cheap fill. For this reason a vacant lot is something of a graveyard. The memories and energy from the original structure have not left. Although the physical material has been buried, over time it is distributed through leaching and dust settlement. A vacant lot is sacred ground, and should therefore be treated as such.

When we walk on the remains of a home, we are walking on the residual energy of everyone who has lived there. At the very least, remnants of their DNA are present in the house. Therefore by extension, you are practically walking on a grave. Now, I’m not trying to say that it should be treated with the same respect as an actual graveyard what I am saying is that one needs to consider this to understand the true magnitude of what urban gardening can be. When you take the time to look at all of the individual connections, both physical and metaphysical the true meaning of gardening will become apparent.

The nutrients required to sustain life come from the decomposition of living organisms. Although soil can be created by the weathering of objects like rocks, the soil never truly becomes rich in nutrients unless decomposing organic material is added. This occurs naturally, and over time can turn even the most inhospitable soils into healthy loam.

Vacant lots are similar in that the soil used for fill is commonly the cheapest material available. The plants that do initially grow, are designed to thrive in inhospitable conditions. Many of these weeds flourish in recently disturbed clay soils. These plants are typically extremely fast growers, and although they are perennial almost always die back in the winter. The resulting plant material decomposes, and the following year the process repeats until enough nutrients have built up to allow a different cycle of vegetation to take its course. This process can take years, and if left to its own devices will eventually culminate in a forest… A small forest… But forest none the less…

As gardeners we can interrupt this cycle at any point. Although it is possible, I personally believe the best results are attained by letting a lot rest for a number of years before any kind of gardening is concerned. Any time food is to be grown, a settling out period of a minimum of ten years is what I recommend; followed by a rigorous round of soil tests and the proper remediation. If your intention is to grow only ornamental plants, you could probably skip the settling period and go straight to planting beneficial plants and trees.

It is very important to take note of what stage a lot is in before you begin working. Oftentimes, if you are working immediately after a demolition, the soil will be very hard and compacted from being run over by heavy equipment. You see, it takes time for nature to work through this type of soil. Although we can quickly power through it given the right tools and money, it can be done with a lot less effort if we just let nature do its thing.

Time or the availability of vacant lots will not always allow us the ability to wait for nature. In which case we just have to roll up our sleeves, and dig right in. If organic material is not available on site, then you will have to bring it on site from elsewhere. Leaves, grass clipping, kitchen scraps, hell even newspaper can be utilized to begin adding organic material. The bad energy created by a vacant lot wont ever go away, but it can be changed. This change always begins in the soil, in order to heal the energy of the lot we must first heal the soil. Everything that grows in this lot will grow from the soil, it should be treated as you would treat your own home.

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

This website and all of the information presented within is provided free by the author… Me… It is my sole opinion and is not representative of anyone other than myself… Although this website is free… I sell prints of my photography here – www.society6.com/chriscondello – or you can contact me directly with questions at – c.condello@hotmail.com – Although it isn’t a requirement… It helps…

Remember to tip… My Bitcoin digital wallet address is – 1JsKwa3vYgy4LZjNk4YmPEHFJNjPt2wDJj

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Practical Permaculture – On Guerrilla Gardening

ScarletBegonia

“Guerrilla Begonias” – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA

The beautification of blighted land… Growing food in locations commonly thought of as waste land… Creating gardens of any kind on land that you do not own… That is what guerrilla gardeners do… Permaculture… Is a lifestyle in tune with the land… Responsible use of resources… Gardening for the earth as opposed to against it… Although the names of these two styles of gardening are different, they are essentially the same thing… An environment based form of civil disobedience…

Guerrilla gardeners often lack the resources that the larger initiatives have, budgets. Creativity, resource management and permaculture fit into the guerrilla gardening fold as a valuable resource for not just the guerrilla farmer, but the entire guerrilla gardening community at large. In a world where resources are limited, learning how to stretch them as far as possible is a valuable tool in any gardeners box.

Permaculture, is a sustainable based design method commonly broken into specific zones numbering zero to five. Zero being your home base, and five being the woods. Urban gardeners often do not have a yard and therefore your zones may be rooted in a guerrilla garden, in which case the garden would be your home base (zones 0 and 1), and you would build up from there. When one lot is easily sustainable, a close lot could then be converted into zones 2,3 and 4.

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“Guerrilla Tulips” – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA

A breakdown of the zones are as follows…

– Zone 0 is the center of activity, your home or apartment.

– Zone 1 is the most controlled and intensely used part of your garden. For an urban gardener this is typically the space right outside your front door, garden space you will walk by several times a day. This zone occasionally has to be away from the homestead, urban living does not always include a yard.

– Zone 2 is still intensely managed, but typically planted with crops and flowers that do not require daily maintenance. Urban gardeners may have a blueberry patch or a few dwarf fruit trees, typically still located on the home lot.

– Zone 3 is typically unmulched, un-pruned with water only available to select plants. I think of this zone as my guerrilla gardens, specifically the main garden.

– Zone 4 is semi-managed, semi-wild land. Typically non-existent to the urban gardener, depends on the amount of blight in your city.

– Zone 5 is an un-managed wild system used for observation as opposed to cultivation. Urban gardeners may have to travel to experience this zone, but I promise you it is always worth the trip…

Permaculture based guerrilla gardens may not incorporate all of the zones, this should not be a reason for despair. Apartment dwellers may not have any home garden space other than a few pots, my suggestion would be to find a vacant piece of land and create your zone 1 there. The zones in permaculture, as with all the ethics and principles are not meant to be thought of as rules but as suggestions… Permaculture interests me because of its ability to morph as the situation presents… As the earth changes… Gardens change… And as a result… We change…

TheForgottenFarmStand

“Guerrilla Farm Stand – The Forgotten Farm Stand” – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA

Guerrilla gardeners often face problems with pests, soil conditions, water, and sunlight. Permaculture lends itself to these problems by answering questions in ways not promoting the use of chemicals, but in a way as to accomplish ones ultimate goal creatively while doing as little damage to the eco system as possible. Conventional agriculture methods rarely do the guerrilla gardener any good as they are based around money, permaculture incorporates naturally occurring elements like plants and animals as the solution to most problems. Got a bug problem? The solution is not pesticides… It is using plants that will attract the birds that will eat those pests. Got a weed problem? Alter the composition of the soil to discourage that weed from growing… Permaculture has a practical solution to most gardening problems, and that is the reason for the name of these posts.

What the guerrilla gardener needs for their garden must not only be purchased, but often carried to the garden site. If valuable nutrients in the form of garden debris is disposed of in a landfill, those nutrients and organic material will ultimately have to be replaced. Permaculture teaches us that those organic materials often sent to the landfill are perfectly acceptable to be left in the garden. Grass clippings and leaves contain valuable nutrients, often the reason a gardener has to apply supplemental nutrients is due to the fact they meticulously clean up the garden. If looks are an issue, bury the debris in an on-site pit.

Any spot where concrete meets soil is a possible rain garden. Rain gardens are nothing more than collection pools designed with plants to not only slow the flow of water to our sewers, but to creatively use as much of it as we can. Concrete and asphalt are impermeable surfaces, what rain water lands on them is quickly routed to the sewer system and ultimately to our rivers. Rain gardens stand in the way of this persistent flow, giving it time to collect and be absorbed by the earth and plant roots. ANY garden can be thought of as a rain garden if it absorbs run-off, techniques of design and installation are really the only difference you will find from system to system. When gardening near concrete, run-off should be a constant consideration… If you can do something about it… By all means do it…

PeaceG

“The Peace Garden – Guerrilla Garden” – Center Street – Wilkinsburg, PA

The sustainable guerrilla garden is kind of a dream of mine, I often find myself discouraged at the amount of trendiness I find in what I consider to be an art form. Flinging seed bombs into an abandoned lot, although dreamy, does nothing but waste money. Weeds grow fast, really fast, much faster than most garden plants can compete with. For this reason I have found seed bombs to be ridiculously ineffective, oftentimes germinating in a rainfall only to be killed by two or three days of relentless spring heat. Those same seeds would have survived had I just gone on site, cultivated the land and planted the damn seeds… There is nothing worse than spending $10 on a bag of seed bombs only to have them fail in the first week…

Observation is the key to all gardening, a recently disturbed lot is a suitable location for seed bombs or broadcasting loose seed. But a vacant lot that has sat for a few years often has an impenetrable surface that has been baking in the sunlight for years, weeds are only able to grow because of their evolutionary adaptation to growing in poor soil… An adaptation that few of our vegetables and flowers have developed. Once the soil has been disturbed in some way, a cover crop of nitrogen accumulating plants like clover should be planted, sunflowers can be intercropped into the lot to create a combination of soil remediation plants.

After some general remediation, till the earth and plant your crops. At the end of the season cut down your plants and let them lay, remember the smaller the pieces, the quicker they will break down. Any opportunity to acquire organic material should be taken, leaves, grass clippings, and wood chips are available for free if you keep your eyes open for them. Given the fact that most landscapers have to pay to get rid of this debris, you are usually doing them a big favor by taking it…

I personally believe anyone considering experimenting in guerrilla gardening should give permaculture a look. Although much of it is perennial/food based, it can relate to any style of gardening you can come up with, and has an answer to virtually every problem you may face in the urban jungle… Though it may take a little translation from time to time… But that is where I come in… Until next time…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

This site… And all the photographs and information presented within are provided free of charge by the author… I am not affiliated with any product or business… Only myself… Writing this blog takes a ton of time… If you find any of this information helpful, please consider purchasing a print from my online store… It is obviously not a requirement… But it helps…

I sell prints of my photography here – http://www.society6.com/chriscondello Or you can contact me directly at c.condello@hotmail.com for commissions or locally/personally produced prints… Thank you for reading…

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The Guerrilla Gardening Guidebook – Vandalism

Vandalism

This post is part of a larger body of work titled ”The Guerrilla Gardening Guidebook”. For the introduction and table of contents please click here

Vandalism is inevitable in all urban areas. Oftentimes, what the guerrilla gardener sees as vandalism is seen as clean-up by the unaware individual. Over zealous children with lawnmowers or weed eaters, though good intentioned can often be the end of a garden. It can take everything you have not to freak out in the moment… Remember this is not a time to scold… It is a time to educate…

Intentional vandalism never seems to be considered until it happens. Vandalism should be expected, at least when you expect it, you won’t be so surprised… And subsequently discouraged… When it happens… Never use expensive plants where this is an issue, use plants tolerant of a wide variety of conditions. Mints, once established, can be yanked, pulled, cut, even blown up with fireworks and still make a comeback. Mint, when in bloom is really a stunning plant that attracts a plethora of beneficial insects. Caution should always be taken when gardening with mint due to its invasive tendencies, but in this case we can make those tendencies work for us instead of against us.

Efforts at growing food in guerrilla plots more often than not will lead to theft. If you are growing food out in the open on a vacant lot, there is nothing you can legally do to a garden thief, consider this before your next move. What you can do is catch the garden thief in the act, not always possible, but definitely the most effective. The actor will almost always exclaim that given the fact that it was growing in a vacant lot, they figured it was “wild” food free for anyone to take. It really doesn’t matter if it is growing in perfectly cultivated raised beds on caged plants… This is the go to excuse. What you do next is of the utmost importance. Explain your intentions nicely, adding in the fact that you paid for the plants and put a lot of time and effort into the garden. Then as a peace-offering you should offer to share some of the extras when they are available… 9 out of 10 times this will resolve the issue while still maintaining a level of friendship…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

This site… And all the photographs and information presented within are provided free of charge by the author… I am not affiliated with any product or business… Only myself… Writing this blog takes a ton of time… If you find any of this information helpful, please consider purchasing a print from my online store… It is obviously not a requirement… But it helps…

I sell prints of my photography here – http://www.society6.com/chriscondello Or you can contact me directly at c.condello@hotmail.com for commissions or locally/personally produced prints… Thank you for reading…

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The Guerrilla Gardening Guidebook – Seed Bombs

seeed_bomb_trio1

“I Hijacked this Photo” – The seed bomb… This one is cleverly crafted to look like a grenade… I wouldn’t waste my money on these… The equivalent spent on loose seeds will go much farther than these ever could…

Seed Bombs

This post is part of a larger body of work titled ”The Guerrilla Gardening Guidebook”. For the introduction and table of contents please click here

Seed bombs, though a novel idea, I personally find to be pretty impractical. I am aware of the slack I may receive for this, but I am personally unimpressed with this trend. I say trend because the internet is full of articles and instructional videos on how to make them, and once something is available in a vending machine… It is officially trendy…

The idea behind the seed bomb, in my mind is more or less urban folklore. Situations that require one to have to throw seeds more than a few feet are the exception, not the rule. I find it is much easier to simply carry your seeds and a small garden shovel in a bag and just work some soil and plant your seeds. A bag full of seeds is jokingly lighter than a bag full of the equivalent amount of seeds formed into balls of clay… Or essentially a big bag of rocks… To this trend I say, get real!

A seed bomb is a combination of seeds, soil and fertilizer bonded together with some type of local clay. Some of the trendy new “store-bought” seed bombs are made of paper mache, intended to melt away in the rain before germination. A quick Google Images search for “seed bomb” returns thousands of photos, but if you look through them you won’t find even a single photograph of a mature garden created by a seed bomb. The closest thing I was able to find are photos of plants growing places the seed bomb was not actually needed.

Although some seeds will germinate on the surface of the soil, most do not. Seeds typically require uninterrupted levels of moisture and absolute darkness to properly sprout, any disruption in this process will ultimately kill the seeds. Scenarios where the seed bomb would actually apply, such as high fences and abandoned industrial sites, are not suitable for what is essentially a broadcast style of seed dispersal. Conditions would have to be perfect with cloudy skies and daily rain for the better part of two weeks for germination to take place.

Now that is not to say that there aren’t exceptions to this, many plants can be sown by simply broadcasting them over the soil. Many annuals disperse their seeds via wind, these could theoretically work well in a seed bomb. Many perennial plants often require stratification, and even after they require specific conditions to induce germination, for this reason they are typically not suitable.

The idea of throwing a bunch of “green grenades” is dreamy, and I understand the allure. But it all comes back to the whole idea of no work gardening, there is just no such thing. Weeds often grow faster than any seed in a seed bomb. A truly unmaintained area will quickly outgrow most of what you can pack into a seed bomb… In my experience the seed bomb always loses to weeds…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

This site… And all the photographs and information presented within are provided free of charge by the author… I am not affiliated with any product or business… Only myself… Writing this blog takes a ton of time… If you find any of this information helpful, please consider purchasing a print from my online store… It is obviously not a requirement… But it helps…

I sell prints of my photography here – http://www.society6.com/chriscondello Or you can contact me directly at c.condello@hotmail.com for commissions or locally/personally produced prints… Thank you for reading…

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.