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May 11, 2011

I, similar to many, like to measure time by cycles of change in plant life. This includes casual, passive observance of trees and flowers in all of the urban spaces around me; it also includes willful attempts to corral plant life to my advantage. The obvious example is the food (more precisely, the vegetables and fruit) I eat. As I begin to weary of apples, I know that spring is just around the corner. Summer smells like dusty stone fruits, tomatoes, and corn. Fall is marked by my increasing urge to use sage and rosemary in everything I cook. However, what really punctuates the seasons is my gardening activity. Today, a year has eroded since the beginning of my first summer here, evidenced by the second inaugural planting of the community garden bed. This morning, I tenderly (though eagerly) plucked early green weedlings and remnants of cover-crop from the soil, piled on a fresh helping of compost, and nestled two young tomato plants into the loam. The city has yet to turn on our access to the fire hydrant, for fear of frost; but I and those tomatoes knew the time had come to call summer in.


Other summer fun things

May 6, 2011

I promise, this is actually geography related. This summer, I’m going to do an intensive study of the local (and perhaps regional) geography of frozen custard. Maybe I’ll map it (probably not). Frankly, I’m intrigued that the local frozen custard scene has spurred a website providing a handy daily flavor listing for the many different custard joints. I intend to rate/rank frozen custard joints on a variety of criteria, including (at minimum): taste/deliciousness, creaminess, variety of flavors, creativity of flavor options, and venue atmosphere (more points if it’s old-timey or greasy-spoon-ish).

To start, I can list the custard joints I’ve patronized over the course of my time in Wisconsin (mostly these are the old standards and familiar chains): Kopp’s, Culver’s, Leon’s (personal favorite, so far), and Gilles. Clearly, I’ve got my work cut out for me. Good thing I adore frozen treats of all manner.

List for posterity: places to travel

May 6, 2011

Wisc area

1. Mackinac Bridge/Island

2. Pictured Rocks

3.UP (in general)

4. Copper Falls

5. La Crosse, Prairie du Chien (Wisc. side of the Mississippi)

6. Green Bay 

7. Apostle Islands

8. Superior


1. Detroit (community gardens, urban ag., etc)

2. Portland

3. Twin Cities

4. West Virginia (Franklin, especially)

5. Austin, TX

6. Glacier National Park

7. Grand Teton

8. Grand Canyon

9. Zion National Park (Utah)

10. New Mexico (anywhere)

11. L.A.

12. Mexico

13. Quebec

May 1

May 3, 2011

Thanks to a particular news story, the May 1 worker and immigrant rights rallies have received short shrift. At best, Milwaukee’s Journal Sentinel had a headline buried at the bottom of the front page, linked to a brief article (which, I think it is worth noting, did not offer any estimate of the crowd size; perhaps because it was so large?). Obviously, I feel it something worth publicizing, particularly as a counter-point to all of the negative things that have occured over the last 2 10 years, and all of the hateful discourse that surrounds these things. The Milwaukee march and rally was (no surprise to me) an overwhelmingly positive event, marked by clear demands for reform and recognition, but also demonstrations of solidarity and respect. Labor rights groups came together with immigrant rights groups this year, to protest the simultaneous erosion of workers’ and immigrants’ rights which reflects the intersectionality of these groups of people (many immigrants face the same challenges that low-income or working class face).

“Obama, escucha, estamos es la lucha!”

Reading ‘Uneven Development’

April 29, 2011

Neil Smith’s (1984) Uneven Development is cited in discussions of the production of space and nature and the geography of capitalism. I’ve begun to trundle my way through, and I find it an insightful (if, at times, intuitive*) work. This is the foundation of theory which describes the world as I understand it: “at the most basic level…uneven development is the systematic geographical expression of the contradictions inherent in the very constitution and construction of capitalism” (Smith, xiii). This I see in the urban geography of poverty and food insecurity and in struggles over rights to space. The contradictions inherent to capitalism are evident in the policy barriers placed on vacant lot community gardening despite the clear improbability that commercial development will take hold on these lots.

*Its intuitiveness to me is, doubtlessly, a consequence of the growing prevalence of scholarship on geographies of uneven development in the post-modern context; in the context in which it was written, it was much more radical.


April 25, 2011

I have been working on this academic (and, admittedly, personal) project for nearly 18 months now, and in the next 3 weeks it will hopefully come to a formal conclusion. Of course, this is really only a break, for logistical purposes; the threads will continue to be worked and woven into the research I do over the next 4 years. This summer, too, I will take chunks of the thesis product and reshape it into articles to submit for journal publication. So, there’s really no conclusion, only reflection. That said, I am pleased about the writing I have done and the few opportunities I have had to share it with colleagues. Furthermore, I am excited at the possibilities my research opens up for more critical examination of urban community gardening and the notion of ’empowerment’ through grassroots community development. Seriously, I’m chomping at the bit (perhaps a bit too zealously) to take a crack at some of the un-critiqued (as yet) ideas about the ability of alternative food movements to radically alter entrenched power inequalities (on the basis of race, class, gender, etc). I’m still wrestling with understanding how community gardens seem to simultaneously resist and challenge hegemonic structures, and what that means for social-political movements.


April 20, 2011

How quickly I forget, they have stuff like this in other parts of America:

Of course, the sign is almost superfluous, because motorists willingly stop for pedestrians everywhere, even where there are no signs or crosswalks.

Also, Seattle has normal spring weather that gives you things like this in April:

But aesthetic pleasures aside, Seattle is a more bustling version of Portland, perhaps most akin to Vancouver, BC. It was this scene that led me to such comparison:

Of course, the cities are geographically proximal and economically similar, so it’s not really surprising. In any case, it made me long for Portland in the way that it was reminiscent of, but strikingly different from, that particular city.