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New things

January 10, 2012

Well, newish. Mostly my life continues unabated, as it has for the past 2 years. The main development is that I am one semester through the PhD program, and not yet completely destroyed. This fall/winter is the fall of presentations–I presented at two conferences over two consecutive weekends in November (in Worcester, MA and Chicago) and will present at the annual AAG in NYC this February. I have been pleased at the responses to my presentations, but am growing weary of talking about the same research repeatedly. I’m ready to move on to new research! I’ve been dwelling lately on the city’s Food Council as one possible research subject, particularly because at every meeting there is at least 5 minutes of juicy discussion about race and class (and the need for greater “diversity” among the food council members). I’m also contemplating a food mapping project, simply because I will be taking an advanced GIS research project, and it might be fruitful as a chapter of my dissertation.

Other new things include our cat, Tusky (a reference to Wondermark), who arrived in August, and a new blog project collaboration, which hopefully will be online soon. Oh, and there will be a grand celebration in July.


New neighborhood, new zipcode

July 31, 2011

Now residing in a less bro-y, more economically diverse neighborhood.

Relevancy and writing

July 26, 2011

I am trying to get motivated to write the 3rd of 3 articles slated for this summer. This really means I am trying to figure out what makes this 3rd article relevant (to anyone). Why would anyone, academic geographers included, care about a literature review on urban community gardens? The answer, I think, is that there are gaps in the literature. Scholars are writing about race and the food system, neoliberalism and alternative food systems, and about community gardens as spaces promoting neoliberal subjectivity (a few). Yet, the majority of community garden literature (I dare say, all of it) fails to address the intersections of political economic context and activism. There is also minimal discussion of the ways in which organizational context, or actor-networks, or socioeconomic difference, might affect the geography of garden development and success. I am moved by Newman and Lake (2006) and Perkins (2009, 2010), who describe the depoliticization of community development under neoliberalization and the limitations of volunteerism to alleviate systemic poverty/injustice/political marginalization. I hope to integrate these ideas with the literature on community gardens to conceptualize how community gardens are a particular kind of space that simultaneously challenges and is challenged by broader political economic context. I want to argue against the idea that community gardens automatically empower citizens or eradicate socioeconomic inequities. Now, to write that in a way that will speak to academics!


July 21, 2011

It’s July. My oft-proclaimed central California heat fortitude has vanished with the onset of the current heat wave. The “heat dome” suffocating the midwest has rendered me incapable of moving faster than a sloth. Although I biked 4.5 miles today for a special event (the promise of a cold shower/cold beer later is sufficient motivation) for the majority of the days I lay prone and nearly immobile in front of a fan. Maybe it’s chemistry? Nearly everything (butter, lip balm, ice, plastic) melts in this heat; why should my body be any different?

Proclivity to sloth aside, I consider the heat a positive development. A primary benefit is that my garden has transformed into a tangled jungle in the span of 2 weeks, offering promise of a bountiful harvest. The other benefit is that it is not 15 degrees F or snowing! I can go outside wearing fewer than 2 layers! I gripe, but I still welcome this over winter weather.





June 7, 2011

We have been graced with the thickness of summer. My body and mind are accordingly sluggish, frustrating my desires to seize the sunshine. My summer projects include gardening and writing 3 articles for to submit for publication. Perhaps also knitting some baby booties. I have carrots, kale, arugula, tomatoes, spinach, beets, and beans planted in the garden plot; now I wait and water and coax. Today we also get our first CSA basket, which I am told will be small given the unusually cold spring: even radishes are not yet ready. The articles are equally slow going, although infinitely more frustrating, as I have more control over and less patience for them.

I may be making an unexpected trip to Davis this summer, though that remains unknown. In other travel, we spent time along the mississipi, near where it meets the wisconsin. For all the notions people have about the midwest, it is a beautiful place infused with history and intrigue. In a picture:



May 20, 2011

I leapt hungrily into the garden today, choosing to accept the warm gift offered by the troposphere (I’ve become wary of it’s advances, convinced it might still snow). The 2 tomato seedlings I planted 2 weeks ago looked frost-shocked and battered, but green and upright still. To the tomatoes, I added 1 basil and 3 russian kale seedlings. I surreptitiously planted a fatalii pepper in N’s plot to replace the 2 pepper seedlings that someone plucked whole from his plot last week (seriously, who does this?). Tomorrow, I hope to plant beet, bean, carrots, and arugula (from seed). Let the season of joy begin.

Hens in the city

May 20, 2011

An ordinance allowing the keeping of hens in city limits was put before the Public Safety Committee (of the Common Council) last Thursday, May 12. However, despite endorsement by 4 alderpersons and the city health department, the Committee delayed any action, claiming they needed more information. Fine. But the hen ordinance goes before the Committee again on Tuesday, May 24, this time for keeps. Hopefully those council members uncertain can do their homework before the meeting (this is, sort of, their job?). There are many simple reasons to support this ordinance and many reasons not to oppose it. The organization behind this ordinance, Cream City Hens, has thoughtfully addressed many of the common concerns about urban chicken keeping (my personal favorite: the ordinance allows hens only, which, unlike roosters, do not crow; of course, hens are not entirely silent, but “part of living in the city is close quarters with a lot of people and their pets. Noise happens.”). Naturally, they also describe the various benefits of urban chicken keeping (food security, anyone?).

I feel about this ordinance much like I feel about urban vacant lot community gardens: the benefits vastly outweigh the possible detriments, and allowing these activities provides a simple (and cheap) solution to many of the problems that the city and other organizations are actively trying to solve (e.g. poverty, food insecurity, environmental degradation). With the hen ordinance, I have wondered whether perhaps this is not an issue worth devoting time and energy, that perhaps it is an inconsequential matter. Yet, after considering how this could substantially impact urban residents (i.e., the value of home-raised eggs might significantly outweigh the value of a few pounds of home-raised leafy greens) and allow our city to actually be a haven of urban agriculture, it seems important indeed. So, I’m going to the hearing on Tuesday, to show my support.