13 1/2 – Another Star Falls

"Sunshine and the Solstice" - Frick Park - Pittsburgh, PA - The first glimmer of sunshine on an otherwise cloudy day... Winter Solstice... It wont be long now before Spring awakens...

“Sunshine and the Solstice” – Frick Park – Pittsburgh, PA – The first glimmer of sunshine on an otherwise cloudy day… Winter Solstice… It wont be long now before Spring awakens…

This has been sitting in my notebook for a few weeks now… I revisit it every few days… I considered not publishing it due to language concerns… But the more I read it… Well… The more I like it…

Another star falls…
Falls from the flag and crashes into the earth…
Missouri burning… Misery ends with a peaceful ideas birth…

Before we can think we take off and run…
Just us… The cops… God and a gun…
Under a blood-red sky we bolt to the east…
Anyone who runs is considered a beast…

We are all thought of as the general public…
One god… One judge… Twelve jurors… Fuck it…
We are all considered public enemy number one…
Freedom is relative… Freedoms price is a gun…

Another man falls…
Falls from the throne and crashes into the streets…
Missouri’s heart is beating… Misery ends in mental defeat…

Riot in the city against the military machine…
Soon a tax-funded rain will scrub the streets clean…
Riots or looting… It doesn’t matter what you call it…
The only thing that matters is if you vote with your wallet…

Keep your nose clean… Keep your mind wide open…
Keep away from those who never stop coping…
13 1/2… That’s one judge… Twelve members of the jury…
And the half percent chance of walking free without a worry…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

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Tonight

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“Accident in Primary” – My Pocket – A simple cell phone photo I apparently shot in my pocket… I liked it enough to use it… Unedited…

Tonight… The winter fog slowly settles on my sleepy street…
The only thing louder than my heartbeat
The sound of silence… Stifling…
Distant felines screeching and crying…

With a steady pace I cut through the fog…
Rain drops falling so I start to jog…
Through the puddles I feel the cold…
Dreaming of you gives me a warming soul…

Tonight… The clouds must be especially sleepy…
Purposely making the landscape look creepy…
Looking at the cold midnight sights…
Orange ambience of the urban street lights…

Tonights slight breeze smells of the snow…
Cutting through the rain showers so slow…
Cutting through the cold air…
And cutting sharply through my mind…

Urban life is really something special…
Wildlife… Those living the wild life…
Houses packed like books on a shelf…
Side by side… Like volumes in a series…

Each one is similar… Yet completely different…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

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Practical Permaculture – The Urban Fire Pit

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“Recycled Fire Pit” – © chriscondello 2013 – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – This fire pit is made entirely from locally found recycled bricks… The bricks pictured have been in place for three years now… As you can see… A few will need replaced this year… But other than that… The pit is in perfect condition…

A few years ago, I built a small fire pit in our backyard using recycled bricks found locally in my neighborhood. When we first built this fire pit, the legality of it was a big question mark, as time has passed, we have come to the understanding that it is perfectly legal as long as we are not burning trash. Before constructing a fire pit in your backyard, consult with your local government as to the legality of burning in your specific locality… I also recommend talking with your neighbors, smoke can bother some people… Remember, even if burning is perfectly legal in your area, a complaining neighbor can usually convince the fire department to make you stop burning…

Now I know what you are thinking… But Chris… What in the hell does a fire pit have to do with gardening or permaculture?.. My fire pit happens to be one of the secrets of my garden… I can make the equivalent of an entire garbage can full of garden refuse disappear in a single evening… A better estimate of time might be a six-pack of beer… The secret is to get your fire as hot as possible… Then slowly add material a handful at a time, only adding more when the existing debris has burned away completely… After a few fires… Clean the ash out of your fire pit and spread it around your garden… I think of this as not only feeding the garden nutrients… But feeding it good memories… I know… I’m a big dork… Get over it…

Deadfall branches are commonplace in my neighborhood, I can burn an entire evening, just with the wood I find on the ground within 500 feet of my backyard… And I live in a very urban environment… Much of that wood is not the best burning wood available… In my corner of Wilkinsburg… Mulberry and Sumac are commonplace… And believe me, they both are poor burners… The secret to getting rid of these types of wood is exactly the same as with weeds and leaves… Get a very hot fire going using other woods… Then sparingly add the junk wood… Taking care to wait for the previous pieces to completely burn… Junk woods not only emit more smoke… But that smoke often smells bad… Lilac is one of the worst smelling woods I have ever burned, comparable to plastic or rubber…

Food cooked over… Or inside a fire tastes better than the same food cooked on a gas range… Living in the city, cooking over a fire is a luxury… If that luxury is available to you… Use it… Cooking on a gas range is not doing the environment any favors… Not saying that I don’t use one… But it is important to remember where that gas comes from… In my area… It comes from the Marcellus Shale deposits and is fracked out of the earth… Any available opportunity to screw that industry out of an impending dollar should be embraced….

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“Kindling” – © chriscondello 2013 – Highland Park – Pittsburgh, PA – My girlfriend pointed this shot out… If you are going to keep a pile of wood on your front porch… Might as well stack it creatively…

Almost all of the big box stores sell some type of ready to use fire pit, these are all perfectly fine… And surprisingly… I have nothing negative to say about them other than they are a bit expensive… And essentially all you are going to do is slowly destroy the thing with fire… If you have the money to buy one… And don’t care to build one… Then by all means just go and buy one… But if you are looking to build one yourself… Then this article is for you…

The basic purpose of a fire pit is to contain fire, a common practice is to find an old truck rim and simply set it on the ground… You can also bury the rim… I personally prefer my fire pits to be sunk into the ground, it makes the fire a little more difficult to detect from the road. My fire pit is nothing more than a brick lined hole in the ground, and it has lasted for three years with very little maintenance.

As far as specific dimensions are concerned, it will depend on the size of your yard. I like the hole to be the depth of a brick standing on end, or around 10″. My pit has a 36″ opening to allow me to burn wood that is a bit bigger than what would normally be burned on a small urban lot. Most commercial firewood is cut around 16-20″ long, the extra room allows oxygen to reach the fire, otherwise the fire would smothers and smoke…

Let me talk about bricks for a moment, after all I do collect them… A common question I am asked when people see my fire pit is whether or not the bricks explode… The short answer is no… They will not explode… Bricks are fired at high temperatures during manufacturing, they have already been exposed to temperatures higher than anything you can throw at them in one night of recreational burning.

On the other hand… Some bricks have a tendency to absorb water, it is not inconceivable to speculate that a water logged brick could shatter when heated… Or likewise… Shatter when a heated brick is rapidly cooled… But a brick will not explode with any type of force… I had originally put the red bricks on the inside of the pit, although they didn’t explode… They didn’t last for shit… They would fall apart after a few fires… The yellow bricks have lasted for three years now… They are noticeably heavier… And much harder than the red bricks…

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“Red Passion” – © chriscondello 2013 – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – Another view of my fire pit… Just with a Red Passionflower…

The ring of bricks around the outside of the fire pit serves a few purposes other than just looking nice. The ring of bricks serves as an extra buffer between the flames and my grass… Which as you can probably tell from the photo… I take pretty damn good care of… The bricks also serve as a place to put your feet when sitting around the fire, without the bricks, feet would wear the grass down to bald spots. I no longer have that issue… And finally, the bricks serve as a place to set the smores sticks when you are roasting the marshmallows… If you wanted to put a grilling surface down, the bricks would work for that also…

The most difficult aspect of having a fire in an urban environment, is figuring out how to keep the smoke to a minimum. The only way I have found to accomplish this, is to keep your fire burning as hot as possible. Do not burn wood that is still wet, and I’m not talking about rainwater wet, but still green wet. Don’t let your fire smolder either, keep it fueled and flaming. Simply paying attention to your fire will typically be enough to keep it burning… Oh yeah… Excessive fire poking is not only annoying… It creates more smoke… And often sends sparks flying in every direction… Keep the fire poking to a minimum…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

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I now have prints available to purchase online… You can find them here – www.society6.com/chriscondello – This site… And all the photographs and information presented within… Are provided free by the author… Me… At one time I had considered asking for donations… But that’s not me… So I have decided to sell prints of some of my photography… It is by no means a requirement… But it helps… If you have a few minutes to check them out… Then by all means… Please do…

Paved Waves – Asphalt Creeping

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“Asphalt Creeping” – © chriscondello 2013 – Vassar Way – Wilkinsburg, PA – So many textures and patterns… I could hardly contain myself… The wavy new asphalt interacting with hundred year old bricks… And a concrete gutter… An urban timeline…

Block after block… Outlined in black… Highlighted in gray… Urban sprawl… City night call… Orange tones and abandoned house bones… Sights… Sounds… And alley cat moans… Creeping through the darkness… Lit by the lightning bugs… Flying through my mind…

Jasmine blossoms bless the air… Scented lily’s… Citrus blooms… All combine in my backyard room… Raise the bar on my scarred soul… Enhances energy… Enlightens life… Brightens the darkness… Fuels the light… Currently all my energy… Comes from flowers of white… Scented dreams… Scented memories…

Streets lined in gardens… Hell strips converted to heavens… Scented herbs beneath my feet… Impossible to miss if you park on the street… Sunflowers hide the telephone poles… These should be everyone’s goals… Simply don’t ask permission… It’s a guaranteed no… It will probably mess with the traffic flow…

Even after all the rhymes and theory… People apparently don’t seem to hear me… Plant a garden… Or a tree… Do it without asking… Do it for free… Or get paid… Regardless… Just do something… Something for you… Something for me… Something for the land… Or something for the sea…

Promote life…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

I now have prints of some of my work available here – http://society6.com/chriscondello – If you would like a print of a photo not listed… Just ask…

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Restless Friday Night

"Friday Morning" - © chriscondello 2013 - Whitney Avenue - Wilkinsburg, PA - Guerrilla Garden between two abandoned houses on my street...

“Morning” – © chriscondello 2013 – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – Guerrilla Garden between two abandoned houses on my street…

Hot and muggy night… First of June…
Sirens wail… And gunshots boom…
All the while police cars loom…
Urban sounds… In an urban room…

Peace is relative in my neighbor hood…
Unity makes a community good…
The higher ground is where we stood…
Silence is a statement that’s misunderstood…

Memories play on my mental display…
Helps me see what you call gray…
Up all night… Sleep all day…
Heaven doesn’t care when you pray…

Or who you pray to… A state of mind…
Look in your heart and you will find…
It doesn’t matter if everyone is kind…
Always move forward… Learn from rewind…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

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Practical Permaculture – Keeping Cats Out Of The Garden

Jingles

“Miss Jingles” – © chriscondello 2011 – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – One of my favorite kitty cats on the street… I have chased her out of my garden a million times… Then I feel bad and end up calling her over for some “purrrrrs”… I’m a sucker for kitties…

I love cats… And I have three of them… Cheech, Chase and Callie… They are our house kitties and I wouldn’t trade them for any animal in the world… I understand why people have kitty cats, and I would never want to harm a cat in any way. But, I absolutely hate when they crap in my garden… Which has become an every night occurrence in my neighborhood… As it always seems to be this time of year…

The problem seems to be the worst during the winter months when the plants are still hibernating, this is the season I find the most crap. Spring tends to be a difficult month as well because it is when I find the remains of the winters craps. Basically it will remain a problem until my plants grow over every square inch of garden space in my yard.

First off I want to stress that if you live in an urban environment, there is ALWAYS a leash law. Animals are not allowed to roam freely through the streets, they are required to be contained to the owner’s property. People seem to universally understand this law as it applies to dogs, what they don’t realize is it also universally applies to cat owners as well… As far as the law is concerned… Cats and dogs are one in the same… They need to be contained to your own property… Always…

Dicentra

“Dicentra formosa” – © chriscondello 2013 – My Garden – Wilkinsburg, PA – This was also originally a photo of cat damage… But who in the hell wants to see photos of that… Instead… Here is one from my garden…

Now, this isn’t always possible… I get it… People like cats… People rescue cats… If you have more than a few cats, it is impossible to keep them inside all of the time… But there should be a reasonable expectation that they will be inside at night… Which is when they seem to do the most damage… Alley cats are a different story… You can’t kill them… But I don’t think you should feed them either… We just kind of have to live with them… And their crap…

Last night… I lost a $30 plant because a cat decided to take a crap right where I had it planted… So please don’t tell me they do not cause damage… I have probably lost hundreds of dollars worth of plants to cats in my neighborhood over the past 4 years… But it seems to only happen at night… So I really have no idea which cat is doing it… They are like little crapping ninjas… I swear to God… I have no idea how they do it…

So how do you deal with the cats without hurting them in any way? A quick search of the internet brings up a million products claiming to be safe and non-toxic. I have tried a few of these without any results, I think alley cats senses are already so screwed up that these products have no effect. The neighborhood cats around here, probably drink nastier shit than any of these products on a daily basis… They don’t even notice them.

AbandonedQuince©

“Abandoned Quince” – © chriscondello 2013 – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – This was originally a photo of a steaming pile of cat crap… Shot on a cold February morning in the first rays of the winter sunlight… But it just wasn’t doing it for me… So I chose this unrelated photo of a quince bloom behind a 100-year-old abandoned Victorian home…

Some websites recommended using black pepper or cayenne pepper applications in the offending areas. I would put this on the same level as spraying a cat with MACE… I would be livid if you sprayed my kitties with MACE… Therefore… I don’t do it to other cats… Besides the possible nasty physical effects of pepper treatments, they require a new application after every rainfall… And in all honesty, are not the least bit effective. Keep your spices off the neighborhood cats and in your food where they belong… Alley cats don’t need to be tasty… The last thing I need is a dozen “Cajun flavored” cats running around the neighborhood…

Fences are not really effective either, as my backyard is fenced in with 4′ cyclone fence… And I still find fresh crap in my garden EVERY morning…The cats in my neighborhood regularly jump higher than 4′ to snag birds out of the trees. I had a bird feeder 6′ off the ground and had a cat jumping up and snagging birds out of the feeder… Essentially my bird feeder had become a cat feeder… And the occasional hawk… 

I have a few methods that have worked for me to some degree… None of them are impervious though… If a cat has to go to the bathroom… Well… No amount of chicken wire will stop it… I have recently been finding the crap right on top of the garden without any attempt to even bury it… I don’t know what to do about that one, as I have no idea which cat is doing it… All I know is it is getting really old…

If you catch cats in your garden during the daylight, squirt the fucker with your hose or chase it out of your yard. This method has a certain level of novelty and stress release, but, it really isn’t the least bit effective. Cats in my neighborhood prefer the over-night sneak attack, they know when my guard is down. They will wait till I am sound asleep, then rip plants out of the ground and piss and crap everywhere. They even like to wait till I plant something new, then go to town in the freshly worked soil.

The most effective, and immediate method I have found of keeping cats out of your garden for good is simply… Wait for it… Burying chicken wire under every square inch of your garden… It sounds ridiculous… But it kind of works… Cover your garden in chicken wire fencing before you plant, then simply plant through the holes in the fence.

ChickenWireGarlic

© chriscondello 2011 – Whitney Avenue Urban Farm – Wilkinsburg, PA – Old photo… Sorry about quality… Raised beds oddly resemble massive kitty litter boxes and will almost always attract local cats… I put chicken wire down on the beds to deter them… And it makes a very handy planting grid for garlic…

If you already have an established garden and just have problems in a few areas, spot treat with the fencing. Cats don’t like to dig through the chicken wire and will typically find some other place to crap if they encounter difficulty digging. If the cats are focussing on one specific location, put a rock or other hard scape item right on the spot where they poop… The cats typically seem to get the idea… Plants will also work for this… If you find poop… Scoop it… And plant something in the same spot… Eventually they will no longer have anywhere to poop… And you will have a full garden…

The method that I try to practice is what I call “saturation gardening”, basically I like to fill every square inch of my garden with plant life. If a cat can’t find soil in your garden, it will go somewhere else to poop. Groundcover, especially strongly scented ones work wonders in keeping cats from digging in the garden… Think creeping thyme or creeping oregano, the herbal oils alone are often enough to repel many animals.

In the end… I will just keep chasing the cats out of my garden… The chicken wire worked for a year… But the cats have just started going on top of it… My garden is actively growing and I am actively planting so the problem will soon be someone elses… Until then… I’ll just keep on scooping it up… That’s really all I can do…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

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Free Range Man

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Free Range – Acrylic on Canvas – 16″ x 20″

Darkness apparently eludes me…
For all my windows are bright…
Is it really too much to ask…
People respect the night…

Light penetrates the window pane…
Can’t even sleep in a chair…
Construction lights are super bright…
But no one seems to care…

Consideration of habitual relocation…
Lay mans, it’s time to move…
Pack a bag and hit the road…
My tattered soul approves…

Always been a free range man…
I need more room to grow…
Looking for my promised land…
Where milk and honey flow…

Make my gardens as far as wide…
As diverse as they can be…
Put them in a massive yard…
For all of you to see…

So I’ll just sit here in the light…
Though our lamps are dark…
Dream about the future…
My endless question mark…

peace – chriscondello

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