Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Proposed Kitchen Retrofit

My friend wants to redo her kitchen and she asked me to send a few quick sketches her way for inspiration. She has a suburban split level home built in the 1970s. As you walk in the front door, an existing L-shaped kitchen with breakfast table is straight ahead with sliding glass doors that overlook a screened in porch and large yard. Her husband is a contractor, so I think she'll get a deal on the construction. Here were the ideas I sent her.

Scheme 1: Kitchen Location to Remain
This scheme keeps the kitchen where it is, demolishes a partition wall between the kitchen and dining, and creates an open concept kitchen/dining room with a breakfast bar. This was the approach she and her husband were thinking of when she talked to me. The problems associated with this design are that it requires moving the sliding glass doors to the dining room side, replacing the window to fit above the counters, and exterior brick work associated with this move. It would also result in people looking at the kitchen sink immediately upon entering the home, which could be a problem.

Scheme 1 Plan: Kitchen Location to Remain

Garden Gossip: Harvest

Harvest is in full swing in my garden right now. I get on average 2 cups of cherry tomatoes every other day - not bad for 8 plants, I think. I only planted two regular tomato plants and they have produced pretty well. I've added these tomatoes to my Green Earth Institute CSA tomatoes to make tasty sauce for eating and freezing. My jalapeño seedlings produced like crazy and I burned my hands last night seeding and freezing them for the winter (after burning my mouth making poppers). In addition to the seedlings, i planted a few jalapeño plants from seed and they are just now starting to produce. Hopefully I will get a few from them before the frost. And I just planted some lettuce from seed. It is a Burpee heatweave blend, so we will see if it takes. My spring lettuce was not successful. I have a few more packets, so I will keep seeding and watering and hoping for yummy salads.

Happy Harvest!

Urban Agriculture: Resources





Rereading Biomimicry

I am in the process of rereading the book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature by Janine Benyus. I want to familiarize myself again with the specifics of the concept because I have been chosen to interview for the Biomimicry Professional Certificate Program. I applied because it sounds like an incredible education, one that cannot be duplicated. But I never really thought I would have a chance at getting in. But here I am, ready to interview in a couple of weeks, so I want to try and remember as much as I can.

I read the book for the first time in 2004 when I entered the C2C Home Competition, so I read it with a specific product bent. I was looking for concepts and products that would solve a specific design application. The idea of a building with an adaptable second skin intrigued me. In my entry, I designed an adjustable thermal skin with floor to ceiling adjustable windows for passive ventilation, adjustable and retractable exterior louvers control solar gain, and retracting insulation curtains to control heat loss. “State of the shelf” technologies were a requirement of this competition, and while I didn’t place, the research I conducted for my entry continues to inspire my work and thought.

But that was then. Rereading the book, I now find myself enthralled with the entire chapter entitled "How Will We Feed Ourselves?" The ideas those at The Land Institute espouse for Natural Systems Agriculture are intriguing. Self-fertilizing, self-weeding polyculture agriculture would seem to be the ideal we should be striving for and the Institute has a great deal of research and knowledge available on their site. I will post more detailed recollections from this chapter in the future because it is truly fascinating.

My goals, lifestyle, and even interests have changed dramatically from the first time I read Biomimicry and the sign of a timeless book is one that can be read over and over with something new to tell you each time. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Urban Agriculture: Research Outline

  • premise. why locally raised food is good for the environment and customers
  • the problems associated with centralized, conventional agriculture (introduction, not lengthy)
  • Midwest early agriculture - native americans and the pioneers
  • The beginning of modern agriculture and centralization
  • Victory Gardens
  • Permaculture and Natural Systems Agriculture
  • Midwest Aquaculture
  • Suburban Yard Gardens - backyard and frontyard
  • Rooftop Gardens - large and small scale
  • Vertical Gardens
  • Community Gardens
  • Small-Scale Aquaculture
Lessons Learned
  • tbd

Midwest Case Studies
  • tbd

  • links
  • interviews
  • articles
  • books

Quarterly Research Projects

While I am on "motherhood sabbatical", I've decided to assign myself quarterly research projects. Balancing the time to do this should be interesting while watching my two young children as well as fulfilling the continuing education requirements of my architecture license. But, as I've always told other people - it's important to keep your head in the game! So, here I go...

These research projects will focus on a subject I am interested in and, ideally, coincide with a seasonal theme.

Fall - in keeping with the harvest season, i will focus on a topic dear to my heart, "urban agriculture in the upper midwest"
Winter - in chicago, this is the heating season, so i will focus on "residential energy efficiency"
Spring - biomimicry in practice
Summer - tbd

i will use this blog as a record of the research and then synthesize lessons learned. this research is given away free of charge with copyright rights reserved. i welcome feedback and references. when reposting, please cite my blog in addition to my sources.

thank you and enjoy!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Downcycled, but still Recycled

i just got the kids a "buzz lightyear" stuffed doll at walgreens as a treat, and on it is a small removable tag that says it is filled with something called EarthRite Fiber, or recycled PET bottles. i thought it had to be greenwash, because it was for something as commercial as Toy Story 3, but the website is so cheesy, it has to be legit.

one word...plastics

going back to my intent of this site being a reference for people, like me, who have a shameful memory, this is something i can never remember: 

which plastics are ok and which could harm you?

when the BPA (Bisphenol A) freak out happened, i threw my avent bottles out with the rest of them.  but then they took BPA out of my Nalgene and I'm back drinking my artificially flavored Crystal Light out of it daily.  i'm drinking pink lemonade right now.  shades of green:  i almost never buy bottled water, but i drink flavored tap water out of BPA free #7 bottles.  but one thing i truly find disturbing is that i never realized until just now that BPA lines the cans of the premixed formula i buy for my son.  well, so much for that occasional convenience. good thing it's a once in a while thing for when we're on the move, but i should have thought of that.  memory...

so i can remember, here are the plastic recycling numbers:

1, 2, 4, 5 are nice
3, 6, 7 (with BPA) are naughty