Metaphysical Metamorphosis – Tragedy is a Seed

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“New Years Tragedy” – January 1st, 2014 12:15AM – Rebecca Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – NOT MY HOUSE – Everyone got out… Four families left homeless… All found assistance from the American Red Cross… This building is next door to the garden I am starting this spring…

Reality sucks… Occasionally… We have to reject it…

Tragedy is a seed… A necessary part of life…
The change on our backs… Will lead us to the light…
One mans tragedy… Is another mans seed…
A caterpillar goes in… A butterfly is freed…

Dreams constant… Just like clouds of smoke…
Memories of the past… Make way for the future…
Planting seeds in the dust of the past…
Water and love make the gardens grow fast…

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“All Things Change” – January 1st, 2014 12:15AM – Rebecca Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA

Tragedy is a seed… A necessary part of life…
Metaphysically morphing… Changes in the night…
A twist on tragedy… A tragic twist…
More than check marks on your divine list…

My God could never be a man… He is a butterfly…
He watches from above… Answers before we cry…
Picks us up when life gets strange…
Reminding us that all things change… WE change…

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“Chasing Butterflies” – Summer 2013 – Frick Park – Pittsburgh, PA

Tragedy is a seed… A necessary part of life…
Sow it in the earth… The sun shines bright…
Fire is neutralized by water and ice…
Life is the equivalent of rolling the dice…

Be the butterfly… Metamorphically change…
Spread your wings… Expand your range…
Live each day as if your last…
Look forward to the future and forget your past…

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…

Mother Nature, Thou Art a Cruel and Heartless Bitch!

When a fly lands on a horse it uses its tail to swat the fly off, when it rains you use the windshield wipers in your car, but when the earth has a problem… all hell can break loose!

I believe that the earth is a sentient being capable of taking drastic and sometimes violent steps in order to heal itself, it is only when humans are in the path of these destructive forces that we label the event as a disaster. What about the events that led up to the disaster, and much more importantly… why did the disaster happen…

All natural events happen for a reason, the earth does not play games and it surely doesn’t joke around, when it needs something it will take it without asking. I hope to explain the theory behind many of these events, I want people to realize that our so-called “natural disasters” are not so much disasters, they are the earth curing its hangover.

  • Floods – The idea of flooding being a natural disaster is in most cases our fault explicitly, I mean we already know where they will occur… it’s called a flood plain for a reason people. We often build our towns and cities near the water, some of the most expensive land you can buy is often in a flood plain. In the past flooding was considered a blessing because of the nutrient rich silts that were deposited in the flood plain, these floods that occur periodically were at one time the backbone of our agriculture. Although the farmers placed their fields in the flood plain, the farmers were smart enough to build their houses above the flood line.
  • Wind – I remember earlier this Summer I was standing on the sidewalk on a windy day with the three-year old from my street, when the wind would blow she would grab my hand, stand on her tippy toes with her eyes closed and laugh away as the wind blew dust in our faces. As we stood their enjoying nature a massive branch snapped in a tree and came crashing to the ground with such force that it broke every other branch that was below it on the tree, all of these branches happened to be the ones that I had marked to be pruned. This was what led me to the realization that although pruning a tree is not exactly necessary, if we don’t prune the tree in a controlled and safe manner, nature will prune the tree for us in a violent and often destructive manner… The tree had developed a problem that was ultimately solved by mother nature who has been known to occasionally be a cruel and heartless bitch… Reminds me of someone I live with… Though she never cut me down… Just pruned the diseased and infested branches from my crown…
  • Fire – Fire is one of the most mis-understood natural disasters, yet it is so absolutely necessary to the survival of the earth. Many trees and plants have developed root systems that grow deep into the ground, there are many reasons for this but the one I want to touch on is to prevent the roots from being damaged by the fire. Native americans used to use controlled burns to clean up the ground below their nut trees, the fire would prune the lower branches and when timed properly could also be used to eliminate pests. Many nut trees develop problems with pests laying eggs in their young fruit, this fruit will often drop off the tree prematurely so the insect larvae can crawl into the ground and pupate until it is ready to re-start its life cycle. A properly timed burn can eliminate these infected nuts on the ground before the larvae has a chance to bore into the ground, this is my kind of integrated pest management.

The earth is not always destructive when it is solving a problem, many of its methods are actually quite beautiful events. Many of these events go un-noticed due to the fact that they have little to no immediate effects on human life.

  • Algae blooms – A byproduct of human life happens to be CO2, in the case of industry massive amounts of CO2 are pumped into our atmosphere. Plants are natures way of handling build-ups of CO2 in our atmosphere, over water this occurs as massive and sometimes colorful algae blooms that are a direct result, and solution to the high levels of CO2 present in our atmosphere. Although these blooms occur in nature, they are beginning to occur often enough to disrupt life in our oceans that in turn throws off all of the eco-systems present around it.
  • Global Warming – Although this has the ability to be extremely destructive, the immediate effects are almost pleasant if you are not looking at the big picture… You see I believe that global warming will lead to global cooling and will ultimately send us into the next ice age. Let me explain… The gulf stream is a constant movement of water in our oceans that encompasses the earth, it is responsible for climates around the world. Warm water is moved into cooler regions and the cool water is moved into warmer regions balancing the earths climates, if the earth really is warming and our polar ice caps melting than we will eventually experience a massive ice cap melt off that will essentially turn our oceans into “ice-water”. I am not scared of the warming part because I would love to be able to grow plants not suitable for my climate, it’s that pesky ice-age that could be looming around the corner that really gets me worried.
  • Over-population – This my friends… Is the truly scary one… If a horse has the ability to swat a fly off of its back… Imagine what the earth has the ability to do… Think of the events in recent memory that were considered “mass casualty” events, earthquakes, tsunamis and floods all happen for a reason, imagine if that reason was actually “us”! If we become a big enough of a “fly” on the earths back it will eventually lash out in rage and “correct” the problem, maybe then we will finally learn the hard way that we have been given a gift… a gift that essentially comes with no warranty… and a mountain of liability!

As far as I am concerned the most important “weapon” the environmental movement has in its arsenal is the very thing we are fighting to protect, mother nature will do the work for us if we just give her time… we are just attempting to avoid speeding up the inevitable “extinction event” that we will someday experience… Evidence to me that “true species sustainability” is not possible. I believe that although the earth probably does have an expiration date that is un-avoidable, I think it best to not swim in our own shit until the end.

My intention with this post is not to scare, but to educate people on the theory that these natural disasters are less disaster and more like the creation of scar tissue over a wound. The flood is not the problem, the fact that we built-in a place that obviously floods is the problem… Though I say that if you can live with the fact that you may lose everything including your life to be able to live by a stream or lake – a long list that will include me someday… More power to yah! I will have to do a post on the “key-points” of slopes someday as I find building locations on hillsides fascinating…

Respect the things that bite back – chriscondello, sob

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