Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Planting Edible Landscaping at Millennium Park!

Attractive (with a bit more water) and edible urban agriculture! I wonder what they'll do with the harvest?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

My Failures in Composting

I've been keeping a compost pile going on six years now and I don't think I've ever had a good batch that I can use in my garden.  I'm so frustrated I'm about to give up.  I just had the last straw when I went to go turn over my (spinning drum style) composter and saw that I have an entire ecosystem of fruit flies flying around it.  Gladly, it's in an out of the way part of my yard, but it's a nuisance and a reminder that composting is an art, not a science.

Composting experts will tell you to have a 50/50 ration of "dry or brown" to "wet or green" ingredients. I tend to put more green ingredients, my kitchen and garden scraps, and forget to put in more brown ingredients, such as shredded bills, newspaper or leaves.  The result is an anaerobic mess that never quite cures and attracts pests.

But as much as I want to, I'm not giving up.  In fact, I'm doubling down and getting a cute little crock that will sit on my counter when I have kitchen scraps (instead of a plastic bag out the back) and I'm going to go dump a bunch of leaves in the composter.  Then I'll cross my fingers and hope that history does not repeat itself and I have usable compost by the time planting season begins.

An idea for entrepreneurs out there - start a composting service.  Green minded folks with no ability to compost (me) will sign up.  You can pick up our kitchen scraps once or twice a week, compost it, and then sell us back our waste in the form of local, organic garden soil.  I know the awesome community Prairie Crossing has a similar service in Gray's Lake, Illinois.  Someone needs to start one in my town.  But for all the reasons mentioned above, it won't be me.

Backyard Living Space

Backyard Proposal by Amy Coffman Phillips for Liquid Triangle Sustainability
This is why I love having friends who buy houses - I get to think of fun ways to spend their money!  I have a friend who bought a beautiful home in the downtown area of a local suburb.  The lots are usually pretty small, but she found one larger than most and wanted to expand the living space back there to include an outdoor kitchen and fireplace as well as some additional seating.  I'm pretty happy with it - I hope she is too!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Bees are out...and it's March

Photo credit:
As I sit here in my backyard on this record breaking warm day in March, I am buzzed by bees and wasps flying near my head.  While this is a startling occasion at any time, I wondered how the bees will fare when this unseasonably warm weather cools to the normally chilly spring that we normally have.  We will still have a frost, right?  And thinking about it, how do bees survive Chicago winters at all?  And is there anything we can learn from them?

Learning Resilience from a Sea Star

Image credit:
I am continually amazed by the diversity of life on this planet.  I remember walking the beaches of Sanibel Island as a child and seeing shells and seaweed in so many forms, and having difficulty understanding that these "things" aren't inanimate objects, but forms of life.  They are all so unique and so unlike us, and there is so much we can learn from them to naturally inspire our creativity.  On my recent trip back to Sanibel, I was particularly fascinated by the sea star, which as an echinoderm and related to the sand dollar, an organism that has fascinated my mother for as long as I can remember.  Thinking about the sea star's regeneration abilities got me thinking about natural resilience, so I did a little research.

What I've been doing for the last month...

My Future Basement
I haven't been posting much about biomimicry lately, for a good reason.  I've been spending all my spare time working on a pricing and construction set for my basement build out.  It's been really fun to dive back into the world of architecture, design, and even CAD and I'm excited to transform the concrete dungeon to a fun entertainment space for my family.  We'll likely start construction in a month and I'll post photos of things I find interesting, but for now back to biomimicry!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

How do you recreate Africa in Orlando?

I recently returned from my first trip to Disney World in Orlando, Florida for the first time in over twenty years and I'm exhausted, but my kids had a great time. At 2 and 4, they were rather overwhelmed, but my 2 year old son really took to Animal Kingdom, which was the one I was most looking forward to as well. And it got me thinking - how did the designers really make it possible that the flora and fauna that is adapted to an African climate can survive in a former swamp like Orlando? I would have thought that the two climates would be too different, but as I sat outside of my room at the Animal Kingdom at night with a constructed savanna outside my balcony, they somehow did it.