Category Archives: Growing Food

DIY Greenhouses for Under $300

It’s seed-starting season and spring is just around the corner. If you’re looking to start seeds indoors and realize that you don’t have enough windows space to sprout seeds indoors, or don’t want to raise your electrical bill by installing grow lights, building a greenhouse from recycled and salvaged items might be the solution you need.

Read more at: http://www.treehugger.com/lawn-garden/3-easy-diy-greenhouses-under-300.html

Open Letter Regarding Growing Food


Dear Sir/Madam:

In the past year or so, I have seen a growing assault on a specific type of individual freedom. A seemingly innocuous activity has drawn the ire of local officials, and when I tell you what it is, you will think it is so silly you just might laugh. You might even think that paying attention to this issue is a waste of your limited time, but I can assure you from my own personal experience that it absolutely is not.

In June of 2011 I faced a 93 day jail sentence for growing vegetables in my front yard. Yes, you read that correctly. There was no other issue, no hidden criminal mischief, no homeowner’s association, no history of any other violations. There was nothing in the municipal code that prohibited growing vegetables in the front yard, nor was there anything, unsightly or even vaguely menacing. Yet I was charged with a misdemeanor. If my case was an isolated incident, we could just attribute it to an overzealous city planner and that would be the end of the story.

But in September of 2011, Memphis high school teacher Adam Guerrero was ordered to dismantle a similar garden. In his case, he used the garden to educate students from the local high school about growing food, making soap and biodiesel, harvesting honey, and giving youth productive and constructive ways to use their time. For this he was dragged into court and labelled a troublemaker.

In June of 2012 Karl Tricamo of Ferguson, Missouri was ordered to tear up his front yard garden in spite of the fact that it clearly violated no zoning ordinance. He chose to stand his ground rather than capitulate to bullying by his city, but it was a difficult fight, and one that a law-abiding citizen should not have to wage. Karl won his fight too, but the city is planning to retaliate by drafting new and stricter gardening ordinances that will prevent him from continuing to plant in the future.

In October, 2012 the Helvenston Family in Orlando, Florida were ordered to remove their front yard vegetable garden, with a citation stating that, ”Front yard must be restored to its original configuration and ground covers restored.” In spite of the fact that the original complaint was made by a landlord who lived over 1,000 miles away, and in spite of the fact that neighbors in the area were in support of the garden, the City claimed ground cover violations, then ruled that the vegetable garden was agriculture and only allowed it in the rear yard where there is no sun. The Code still has not changed and the case against them is still pending. Up until this point, they have not been allowed to speak in front of the city council, nor been given a fair hearing, despite the city repeatedly telling media that they are working with the couple to find a fair solution to the situation.

Perhaps most egregious, though, is the case of Denise Morrison in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Denise grew a varied garden of herbs, flowers, fruits, nuts, and vegetables. She was cited by her city for violating their zoning ordinances. And while her case was pending, before she had her hearing, city workers came and razed her garden. That’s right. No due process. no fair trial. All because some local bureaucrats wouldn’t tolerate one woman growing some of her own food.

So what can you do? I am asking you to be courageous enough to sponsor a bill that will protect a citizen’s right to grow food. I am asking you to pass into law something that should already be obvious to thinking people: that a free citizen should have the right (barring legitimate concerns over safety and welfare of others, of course) to grow food on their own property. Protect individuals from the petty tyranny of local governments.

Yes, I know we can vote in local elections, and we do. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if you took a stand on this issue? I’ll tell you who would support you, because they supported me during my fight with the city (which I won, by the way): people who care about: food safety, food rights, water conservation, energy conservation, organics, local politics, human rights, keeping government in check, farming, slow food, eating local, land use issues, environmentalists, water quality, peak oil concerns, saving money, healthy diets, teaching and learning, improvising in a tough economy, self-sufficiency, therapeutic benefits of gardening, creating strong neighborhoods and regaining a sense of community, taking pride in what you work for (a most American value), as well as many other things.

It used to be that Americans were encouraged to plant Victory Gardens. Average people felt they were helping their country and their families by putting their hands in their soil and growing some of what they ate. They took pride in the fact that they were able to see the results of their effort on their very own dinner table. Today many people struggle from paycheck to paycheck. Slogans are thrown around about how best to help people who are just trying to “make it”. Here you have case after case of people who are willing to do what it takes to plant what some have termed the new “Survival Gardens”. How wonderful it would be for them to be able to flourish in peace!

At the heyday of our battle, we had several hundred thousand visitors following my story on my blog. I’m sure there were at least that many following our story on other websites and through other media. Undoubtedly you would have more than that supporting you in this issue.

I will eagerly await a response from you.

Thank you and best wishes,

Julie Bass
http://oakparkhatesveggies.wordpress.com/

http://oakparkhatesveggies.wordpress.com/2012/08/08/open-letter-regarding-growing-food/

Artist Spotlight: Sharon Kutz of Studio Musings

I was pointed in the direction of Sharon Kutz’s Santa Maria, CA based shop by a former interviewee, Judi FitzPatrick and when I viewed the items in Studio Musings, I knew Sharon had to be featured! As an Artist Sharon works with varied mediums such as glass and interesting thrift store finds to create out of this world mosaics and funky windchimes. Her items utilize principals of recycling, repurposing and upcycling to create one of a kind pieces that will stun your senses! Sharon truly embodies what it means to make a difference and was thrilled to share her thoughts with us.


Can you tell us a little about what it is you do?

I take a found item that is unwanted and distressed, clean it up, and make it into something that’s wonderful, appealing to the senses, and is just plain fun!

How long have you been creating mosaic art?

I have been doing mosaics for about 5 years.

What is the creative process behind your work? How does an idea take shape?

Unless it is a commissioned piece, it sort of evolves. Sometimes I will find a tray that looks interesting and I can see it finished with the mosaic already on it. Other times, I just play with the stained glass colors and all of a sudden it hits me. Then I get to work. Even as I work, other ideas come, and I may go down that trail of thought, finishing with something completely different than what I started with- and loving it!

Where do you acquire the glass and gems that go into your mosaics?
There is a stained glass studio in town that sells its left over scrap glass. I get most of my stuff there. The glass gems are bought at garage sales or friends give them to me. Once in awhile, if I need a certain color, I will buy at a craft store.
What made you decide to use recycled type pieces to create your art?
I have been a thrift store shopper for a long time, and I would find these awesome pieces that were damaged or neglected, and I started thinking- I could do something with that! – help it, make it useful again. Better than new.
How long have you been creating windchimes from teapots and other surprising household objects?
I began with wind chimes about 8 years ago. I made a gift for someone out of an old copper teapot, put a plant in it, and attached some old silver plated utensils and I was hooked. It sounded so nice and the person loved it. I got my husband to buy me a power drill and I took off. I can’t help looking at things as “potential” and have even been scolded at some craft shows for using a particular pattern of silverware in my piece. “Don’t you know how much this spoon is worth?” When I tell them it was destined for the dump and I cleaned it up and repurposed it to be used as a chime, they usually change their tune.


What was your inspiration in creating those pieces?
My inspiration comes from a lot of places. First, I love old, antique things. I see something as beautiful, when others say its ugly, or too damaged, and want to throw it away. Secondly, I want to make something of quality- that will last. It has to elicit some emotion, or its just not right. Many of my repeat customers say, “it just makes me smile” when looking at my wind chimes. That’s what I want.
When did you first become interested in living and working in a green way by repurposing?
I think it started when I had to close out my mom’s house, and sell it, I realized that she was always “green”. She never threw anything away and had items from my grandmother. She lived simply and was happy with what she had. I learned a lot from that and have been trying to repurpose ever since.
Aside from repurposing materials, are there other ways do you work in an eco friendly manner (sealants, energy conservation, working from home, etc)?
I have a room in my home that we made into a studio. I sit by a big window and most of the day, I can use the sunlight for my projects. The glue I use on my mosaic pieces is a non-toxic product. The grout sealer is water soluble but I haven’t found a true ‘green’ sealer yet.


Has any one green practice become second nature, something you personally do every day?
We have an acre and a half of land, and we are in the process of planting drought friendly plants (deer friendly too) and using gorilla fur to cover large unplanted areas. We have a vegetable garden and an apple orchard and all of our produce is completely organic. On the trees, we hung old milk cartons with molasses and vinegar to dissuade the apple moth. It works pretty well and is all natural.
What green practice do you recommend readers try?
Most of your readers probably can tell me more than I can tell them. I’m still learning new things. I am so encouraged though, by the younger generation, and their willingness to get on board with all the recycling-going green. My youth was spent in the 50′s and 60′s and we weren’t so concerned with preservation. There is hope!
As an independent artist what is your greatest challenge?
My greatest challenge as an independent artist is probably- selling my art. Having people “get it” when they look at my pieces. Realizing how much time is in each piece.
What has been your greatest success to date?
My greatest success to date was my first sale on Etsy! It was so encouraging.
What is your advice to a fellow artisan who is new to their industry?
My advice to a fellow artisan would be to never give up. Believe in yourself and keep on going, keep on creating.


Do you have an online presence where your work can be viewed?
My online presence is at Studio Musings. Eventually, I will have a website at studiomusings.com but it is not quite ready. I bought the domain name, and my husband’s still working on it.
Is your work featured in a gallery or other brick & mortar location?

I will be doing some craft festivals this year. Autumn Arts is held in Santa Maria on Oct.4th. I will be showing with the Los Padres Artist Guild. Also, there is a big Country Christmas Crafts Fair and Boutique on Nov.28&29th at the Veteran’s Memorial Bldg. in San Luis Obispo, where I will have my own booth.

Smart Energy Technology: www.OrganicMechanic.com

Artist Spotlight: Karen Dengler of Retired Records

Karen Dengler is the owner and creator of Retired Records in Cincinnati, OH which is a company that focuses on upcycling old vinyl albums into functional home goods. The plain old bowl shapes of the past are a far cry from the inspiring and truly unique items that Karen creates. She keeps a solid focus on protecting the planet, upcycling little pieces of music history and producing house wares that are a form of sculptural art. Rock and roll.


Can you tell us a little about what it is you do?

I create functional art, mostly for the home, and some for the body out of recycled materials, mainly old vinyl and found or discarded objects. I have a BFA in art therapy and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. I use art as a tool for creativity it provides an outlet for me an keeps balance in my life.

What was the motivation behind the creation of Retired Records?

The motivation began two years ago, after making a bowl, from an old record. I then made a purse, I can never find one I like at the store. I prefer to have something no one else does, people started to notice mine and began to ask me to make them . After encouragement from friends and family. I opened my Etsy shop in August of 2007. I continue to see what I can create I find it exciting to make useful items out of materials that are non-traditional and would otherwise end up in a landfill.

Are people surprised to learn what your items are made out of? What is their reaction?

Most people are intrigued, and comment “Is that REALLY made from a record”, or how did you think of that? My comment is” I usually create items through experimentation, once I start creating my brain just goes on overdrive. I wake in the middle of the night dreaming of new and exciting items.

Where do you acquire the pieces that go into each design? Is it important to you to use salvaged pieces?

I have acquire a lot of my items from friends and family and well as thrift stores. I try to incorporate as much recycled material into a piece as I can. I think it makes the art more interesting.


What inspires you as an artist?

I am inspired by nature. The record label itself, specific colors will dictate a design or pattern to paint. Even an old belt will inspire a specific look for a purse, such a rock-n-roll or classic. I also love contemporary design with clean lines. My girls are also helpful in giving me their creative opinions when I am working on a project.

What is the creative process behind your art? How does an idea take shape?

The process depends on each specific piece it changes and develops as I work. I do not always have an exact image of how it will look when I am done. If I do I usually make modifications as I work. This is why most of my items are one-of-a-kind. I use what I have then make it work into my design.

How long have you been selling your art?

About three years.


Do you remember the feeling of your first sale? How has that feeling changed after selling so many items?

I remember making a purse for my daughters teacher at school, that was my first sale. I still get excited when making a sale and seeing where it will go. I have sold items all over the world from California to as far away as Norway.

What does the Green Movement mean to you?

It means helping out and doing my small part, to inspire future generations to continue to do the same.

When did you first become interested in living and working green?

I feel when I became a parent it started to mean more to me than it had previously. When you have kids you realize that you should be a good role model and practice what you preach. I also compost and have an organic herb, vegetable and butterfly garden that the family helps out with.

What inspires you to take care of our planet?

As a kid I was raised partly in the country my father has a farm in Kentucky and I always noticed that I felt better, stronger and more independent having been that environment. Playing in the fields, fishing, gardening, horseback riding and exploring. The planet is part of us, just like our own soul and we have to nurture it as it nurtures us.

Has any one green practice become second nature, something you personally do every day?

Composting and recycling.


What green practice do you recommend readers try?

Recycling is an easy first step.

Is there an eco-friendly product you use that you would recommend?

I use white vinegar a lot in my cleaning.

As an independent artist what is your greatest challenge?

Making time for my work.

What has been your greatest success to date?

The creation of my wine rack.


What is your advice to a fellow artisan who is new to their industry?

Keep trying until you find something that you truly enjoy.

To view all of Karen’s amazing work please visit her online storefront Retired Records

Smart Energy Technology: www.OrganicMechanic.com