Tuesday, August 9, 2011

When Software Meets Sorrel: Brave New Garden?

I think it would be cool to have my name spoken in the same breath as brilliant futurists like Stephen Hawking, Alvin Toffler, and Buckminster Fuller.

Futurists predict global trends, emerging markets, and plausible scenarios that will affect everyone on the planet. They show up on cool PBS science shows, and school kids write reports about them. If they're smart, they make predictions with 200-year lead times, so their critics can't beat up on them for getting it bass-ackward.

I might well be a futurist too! Consider this exchange with my soul brother, Owen Dell. We were talking about the fabulous food exchange networks sprouting up around Santa Barbara, like pre-germinated radish seeds.

The idea is simple: People who grow food at home exchange their surplus with neighbors, sharing eggs, fruits, veggies, flowers, herbs, recipes, seeds, seedlings and secret potions. At the same time, they build community by meeting their neighbors. There are twelve exchanges in our area, under the umbrella of Santa Barbara Food Not Lawns.

What does this have to do with me becoming a legend? Well, as Owen and I were praising the value of food exchanges, I wondered aloud what would happen to them if there were no surplus. "What if everyone's garden provided exactly the amount of produce they needed, exactly when they wanted it?"

A good question to ponder, don'tcha think? Well, let's see how this ends up at my Edhat.com blog, shall we?

Me, Version 2.0

It's close to my two-year anniversary of being laid off by the City of Santa Barbara. Good time to reflect and look forward. I reread my May 11, 2009 blog post, Laid Off: the big career opportunity. It was one of those "one door closes and another opens" meets "glass half-full" essays where I went light on the jokes and heavy on philosophication. I mentioned that I usually don't write about my life here at Edhat, and I don't, so please indulge me in this bi-annual puff piece.

(And being the kind of guy who never misses an opportunity to pimp his stuff, be on the alert for specks of shameless self-promotion.)


When I run into people I worked with at the city, they always ask, "So how's retirement?"

My retort: "Define retirement. If it includes any of the following: sleeping past sunrise, whacking the snot out of a little white ball, impaling red wigglers, Macarena lessons, making goat cheese (I'm sure that's a euphemism for something nasty), tapping my inner goddess in a sweat lodge (oooo, that could be even nastier), or eating bon-bons while watching Ellen, you've got the wrong guy."

There's plenty more of this at my Edhat.com blog.

Cornerstone Sonoma: Where Art, Imagination, and Plants Come to Play

Forgive me for thinking Toto and I had crossed into Kansas. But how to explain what appeared dead ahead in my windshield – a massive white picket fence, painfully twisting like so much tormented fusilli pasta, rising into a drizzly March sky. I checked my GPS: Sonoma, in the heart of northern California wine country. Perhaps this aberration was my destination.

I had heard so many wondrous things about Cornerstone: Festival of Gardens. It was one of those breathlessly spoken, Oh, you have to go there, places my designer friends insisted I visit. They portrayed the nine-acre complex as a pilgrimage required of every garden designer, that they might experience the melding of art, landscape architecture, horticulture, sense of place, playful imagination, and drama. The flying fence was this play’s opening act.

Cornerstone Sonoma was conceived and nurtured by the husband and wife team Teresa Raffo (pictured at right) and Chris Hougie. Their inspiration for this ambitious venture arose during their 1996 honeymoon visit to Frances’s Loire Valley, where the Festival Gardens of Chaumont cast a spell on their imaginations. Eight years later, in collaboration with world-renowned landscape architect Peter Walker, they opened the doors and gates to a twenty-two garden wonderland.

Lots of great pictures and descriptions continue at my Fine Gardening blog.

Airplanes In The Garden -- Kids, Butterflies, and Summer Fun

Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and camp counselors! We haven’t hit the solstice yet, but Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer. Time to think about what the kids will be up to for the next few months. Would you like to divert them away from mind-numbing, thumb-mashing video games and get them into the garden for some good clean dirty fun? Then flip open a copy of Joan Z. Calder’s book, Airplanes In The Garden: Monarch Butterflies Take Flight, and get ready for action.

I can’t think of a more rewarding, long-lasting summer strategy for entertaining (and stealthily educating) youngsters than reading this fancifully illustrated, engagingly written, instructional book. It’s about Sergio and Stanley, a couple of monarch caterpillars who appear one day in a young girl’s garden.

The story opens with pigtailed Bonnie delighting in a small squadron of graceful monarchs wafting through her family’s garden. When her mom asks her what she’s up to, Bonnie replies, “Mom, there are airplanes in the garden!” Her fertile imagination sees the flowers as airports, where butterflies pick up “babies and moms and dads to take them on a trip.”

Read more about this delightful book, click over to my blog at Fine Gardening.

Another Definition of Vertical Gardening - Marcia Donahue

Unless you're Rip Van Winkle, or you've been spelunking the Vrtoglavica Caves of Slovenia for the past few years, you couldn't miss the garden world's clamor about vertical gardening: succulents packed into honeycombs mounted on walls, Patrick Blanc's Chia-Pet-on-steroids flights of fantasy, and at a slightly less grand but far more practical scale, Susan Morrison's and Rebecca Sweet's new book, Garden Up!

But it was Marcia Donahue's garden that made my eyes and imagination reach skyward. It seemed that everywhere I looked around her garden something was pointing up: the gables of her two-story Victorian, bamboo and vines slathered on fences, and a series of cylindrical and round "beads" threaded over poles and slinking into trees.

Marcia has managed to pack a bundle of charm, whimsy, and wonderment into her garden, while also cultivating an abundantly productive urban farm. Amid the art and horticultural thrills, chickens roam, veggies overflow planters, and hives buzz with honeybees.

Read the rest at Fine Gardening