Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Let's Make Compost!

There's a story to my very short hair for another post. Stay tuned.
 I find making compost one of the most satisfying acts of gardening. It's super easy and will save you a ton of money over a year's worth of gardening time. Just save your raw fruit and veggie scraps, throw in your coffee or tea grounds and some egg shells, and you're off to a great start. Dump your kitchen scraps in a compost bin, or if you can't afford one or find the time and materials to build one, just start with a pile somewhere off to the side in the garden (start saving for a tumbler or other type of composter of your choosing; most range between $75-$120, if you can save $6-$10 an month, within a year you'll have your new gardening tool). Add leaves, and other yard scraps to the pile, dig a hole and pile in your kitchen scraps, cover with leaves and a shovel or two full of dirt, water, wait about 6 weeks and voila! You are on your way to making your best defense against garden pests and sad looking plants. I love the way compost smells!

So, if you use this great soil, you'll reduce your use of chemicals, because the soil will do the dirty work for you. Also, you'll save from buying those bags(plastic-gross!) of soil at your local garden center. However, better to buy the bags and garden than not garden at all. Remember, like all the good things in life, a garden takes time to unfold and reveal itself... it's about process, and making compost is a great micro sample of the larger macro of the garden life. Btw, some say pouring beer over the compost helps speed up the worms' work. Also, a great activity do to with children (getting them outdoors and away from media) is to encourage them to dig for worms for the compost pile. This has been one of Rowan's favorite activities since the age of two. One last thing... it takes little space to make compost. These pix are from when we lived in the duplex apartment in Grant Park. But, if you have absolutely no space, seek out a local community garden or start one yourself; also, many counties have compost available for pick-up. I've used both Cobb and Dekalb counties compost services. These are great resources that belong to you so take advantage. Until next time... go dig! Peace,S

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Necessary Wanderings

Certainly, Freedonia is more than a small business in a big city. If anything it is a place. A place that is inside of us all. The inner domain with its gel-like walls is either nourished, thus one goes on to become a peace maker/ creator, or, this place, where consciousness  dares to dwell, contracts, squashed by the titans of the great panopticon. The dark giants may sell the mere low human snake oil always promising to cure the forever gaping, oozing wounds they/ we inflict on ourselves. Like the proverbial hamster caught in the wheel, forever trying to shop and consume until this inner place where a soul once swelled heals and once again becomes one with its Mother Earth. We've survived the 'inspired words of 'GO SHOPPIN' FOLKS' (thank you W!) when the cut was the deepest. That was over a decade ago. Yes, decades come and go and progress marches onward. If only the doctor still made house calls. And now, The Great HOPE has come to town with nare the holistic medicine for which our time calls. Nope. Our leaders are not receiving the message(s).

For me, nothing lifts me out of a place of wound baring victim-ville as a walk. This simple, free act can fill the void and connect me to the most mysterious place where the butterflies flit about their migratory path. Whether a fitness walk/ jog(arms propelling me forward) or a stroll(yes, I stop to smell the flowers), nothing else opens me up to finding my own power like a walk. Thank goodness Atlanta is becoming a very walkable city! We now have loads of trails, The Beltline being the most advertised. However, in our little community of Lake Claire there are several wonderful spaces to stretch one's legs. These pics are from last week when Rowan and I walked the one mile each way to Little 5's to fetch our water at our fave local co-op Sevenanda. My son, the forever serious traveler, contemplates H2O as we gaze upon the creek water that wanders through our 'hood.  Of course, there is nothing better than a morning stroll, coffee in hand, or an evening's sunset version (vino will do) in The Garden. These are the necessary places that we all must retrieve and demand time to wander...

Monday, August 6, 2012

Good Day Sunshine

Instead of the title of a Beatles' song I feel like nowadays I could have just as well have used the Walker Brothers' hit from around that same time, The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore. (You may remember that Scott Walker has gone on to make some very interesting albums indeed, some corrosive and beautiful and some just heartbreakingly beautiful ). Nature and the organic world seem to have that dual aspect also. Some days the sun could go on forever, no matter how hot and sweaty and some days we wish for nothing so fervently as rain, and the melanchoic thrumming on the roof and mist from the pavement and the pearlescent drops on the leaves shimmering as we pass them to hurry to the car.  And of course most of the time, those of us in the city seldom think about the stars at night; sometimes the moon makes itself forcefully seen, as we hurry in to our screens and telematic life we all live now, watching bathyspheres enter the depths and distances of other worlds while  the star drops gather outside our window,  and dew collects and glints if we happen to pass by at the right time to catch the glow of those miniature infinities.

With all the mind-boggling news which seems to move on 24 hour orbits now, the only respite seems to be to walk through the gates of our own making into gardens whose tending we may find to mean more and more with each passing year, and to recover skills lost in the last 75 years as re: how to re-attach ourselves to the earth. And then again some may come to choose to put their brain in a tincan and shoot it to Saturn to report on the ring gardens there, while others choose to stay more grounded (which can have its own charge if we remember how lightning works, those awesome strokes of most energetic nature which can appear like cracks in our own most cherished global skimcoat of atmosphere..).

If nothing else, thanks to Tom and Cindy for occasioning these thoughts of a world which is omnipresent but which seem to often escape us in the altogether awesome implications of what it is to be alive and kicking (and weeding and seeding and growing) now.

Sloane has been busy working on updating Freedonia Works into a more omnibus project having to do with sustainability and craft as well as that other vegetative dimension that surrounds us and that we need for both mental (well some of us) and physical sustenance (well those of us who wish to be as healthy as we can) and she will be reporting on some of those events and processes as time goes by (or as we pass by time; I sometimes wish it were more the latter way of moving).

At any rate here is a picture of here studio, on photo at night and one during the day last winter (some of you may remember the chicken coop we had--which has become this studio!):

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Engraved by Dust

Above you see the ruins of the 'upper studio'  at the old Freedonia headquarters...more precisely and less pretentiously, my mother's backyard (the lower studio you have seen elsewhere in this blog). This one however had the added (dys)advantage of being a treehouse which, however cleverly designed style wise, was not up to the rigors of Mother Nature's various assaults coupled with my own in-ability.

I now quite fancy this view however, thinking that it looks somewhat like a steampunk version of a crashed Klingon starship. Of course it will continue to disintegrate, at some point in the future becoming a formless mass covered by leaves, encroaching vines, and sprouting seeds leaving only some vague archaeological evidence of its former luminous presence (it had a translucent roof making it seem like a hovering bit of ectoplasm in the darkening forest edge). I'm also reminded(at least in my imagination if not in the form of the collapsed studio) of the numerous science fiction novels where the massive enigmatic alien ruins lay in wait to be explored and never-quite deciphered by the intrepid explorers. The shiver of infinite curiosity and possibility always greeted me as I read those novels. Modernism, perhaps a ruin in the making, prefers more the Kafkaesque ruins of a Piranesi sketch - a sense of time compressed rather than time expanded.

There seems to be something inherently fascinating about ruins, especially in a garden setting. The nineteenth century gentried English gardener went to quite a bit of trouble to have ruins, often imitating Greek or Roman styles. It gave the garden the imprimateur of a vast deposit of fathomless and murky ruined time, almost as a palpable substance, a sublime presence all within the gardener's immediate horizon, as if an infinite fold in the finiteness of the garden.

(My friend Sean Q. Beeching has written a bit on the Southern ruin, from an article to be issued as a part of the perforations series:

We are proud of many of our ruins, as we are of our defeats. Scull Shoals was ruined by flood and accidental fire but many other mills we Southerners have maintained just as the Yankees left them. This is only partly because we white Southerners are a backwards looking people whose golden age lies in the past. The more mechanical reason that these ruins survive is that they are down by the rivers, and with coal and the railroad we moved upland away from the old water-powered mill sites. Nothing, for instance, is left of upland Civil War Atlanta. In suburbanized Georgia the past is awakened only when an excavation inadvertently brings to daylight a horseshoe, a pipe stem, or a bullet. Cotton mills were not part of the moonlight-and-magnolia South of legend, the one we revisualize out of our ruined Taras and Gone with the Wind. But because we revel in the agony of the destruction of the South, we are happy to include Yankee atrocities in that vanished and invisible empire of the imagination. The same sort of self-pity is at work, for the South, at Gettysburg, for Texans at the ruins of the Alamo, and for all Americans at Pearl Harbor and in lower Manhattan. In each that invisible but still present moment just before the destruction is what we have come to see.)

Of course, the garden holds both possibilities it seems to me. A garden is nothing if not the firm placement of feet on soil, preparing for the mundane act of digging, or tugging or hauling, or some such prosaic gesture.  The work of Empire, the digs of the Ozimandias's of the world, shrink to a mote in the realm of the garden. But still...the need for some sort of vastness (though not necessarily of the despair revolving around the decayed Cyclopean works) is perhaps retained in an encapsulated, encrypted form in the very nature of the seed itself, no flotsam and jetsam of demented emperors (well, that is until the advent of Monsanto) but a bit of matter with a mission invisibly stretched and folded within itself...perhaps one of the closest glimpses a jaded modern human can get to anything resembling a teleology these days.

When the desire is for everything shiny and new and electronic (actually, the very essence of time ruined and compressed), the ruin seems particularly Lovecraftian to a modern age, biological horrors with a stench of a grave which is the only opening to infinity...too much like a garden in some respects maybe. and maybe too Biblical: 'from dust we come to dust we go'.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Uncanny Garden

"Depopulated, the landscape estranges, it renders uncanny: there is no more community no more civic life, but it is not simply 'nature.' It is the land of those who have no land, who are uncanny and estranged, who are not a people, who are at once those who have lost their way and those who contemplate the infinite -- perhaps their infinite estrangement."
Jean-Luc Nancy, The Uncanny Landscape
At any rate, it's hard to 'get back to the garden,' as both that pop song and popular sentiment had it, in the Sixties.

I suppose the first time I saw or knew anything of Hieronymous Bosch's 'Garden of Earthly Delights' (a title given to it, not by Bosch but by later commentators; no one is sure of the original title) was as a poster then. It's seeming thematic of Dionysian revel seemed particularly apropo for the time when it seemed as if every bond of reality was loosening and all hell was breaking out. And of course at that time many people were all about getting back to the land. 

But at the same time, the poster always made me somewhat queasy, to the point that while I was fascinated, I never actually owned it. And also it seemed, at least THEN, that it was TOO much of its time and, really, just too much generally.

And then many years went by when I didn't think about it at all. Nowadays, for some reason, it seems to strike a more or less constant note in the murmur of my background thought gloop and pops up at odd times. Like now. In fact I just came across a lecture by Joseph Leo Koerner, a fantastic art historian, and here I go again. (I am including a link to this lengthy video lecture even though it might seem fairly heavy going for some; my only excuse for doing so is his discussion of the 'self-seeding' of humanity, pods and seeds imagery, etc.; and the idea that there are no human artifacts in the triptych, even the structures seemed to have been grown, like some science fiction tale when biology has become the uber-science and has displaced the functions of the machine).

Below I have picked a few of the structures, hard to do because the whole canvas is alive and every single figure seems to be narrating his own as well as a group story. As Koerner points out, the whole scene has  quality of simultaneity of past, present, and future" the future meets the past while the past is inthe future while the whole thing is ongoing now, in whatever time period you are in, especially since the scene is not marked by (or perhaps I should say coded) and for the machine and in fact the only thing that resembles a built human artifact takes place in what we could surmise as hell/future (which perhaps is also now).  A timeless quality hence ensues, much like those autumn  evenings which could go on forever, thin smell of leaves burning in the background, a time extracted from all other times, a state of exception.

 The garden always retains the possibility of that intrusion that Nancy speaks of in the quote above: an uncanny dispossession of ownership (uncanny coming from the German unhemlich, literally unhomed but also alluding to a secret) by that green fuse that shoots through everything, us, the human, included, and an opening to the sempiternal forces of 'time,' a force which, in the guise of history and prehistory and posthistory, becomes more problematic, the more it is examined. Which is why 'The Garden of Earthly Delights' refuses to go away, existing both in and out of time, a marker like the garden of Eden. Like all great mysteries, as hidden as they most often are, under the baleful gaze of the banal, the garden (and its uncanny other, the landscape) both solicits and refuses but it never goes away. If it were to disappear you would know that the Time of the Human is over.

(and what is this? contemporary architect Greg Lynn:

Some of the (built? grown?) structures in The Garden of Earthly Delights (it could just as well be called The Garden of Unearthly Delights. Avery large high res pic can be found here):

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Filling the Surreal Gap

 Successful gardens rely on  a bit of tension between the wild and the civilized (or as the famous anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss put it as the the title of a book, between the 'raw and the cooked'). Too much order and the garden seems too artificial, too little and it seems like the abandoned yard next door.

Of course, that dividing line is a pretty artificial one. Look though any glossy garden design mag and you'll see plenty of very modern stuff which look like it came straight from a drafting table, with very rectilinear components and modern materials. Sometimes these designs work but only for those owners  who have no wish to 'be outside in the garden.' These are gardens to be walked though at the most. The idea of fiddling with placement or doing any digging is not really possible, just as you wouldn't think of altering a painting once it is done and handed off to you.

If I had an aesthetic tendency in the garden it would be toward a sort of surreal naturalism. (In a previous house I had, I had the occasion to be involved in an interview with Jean-Francois Lyotard, a famous French philosopher known for his 'post-modern' works. As he was coming up my driveway with his entourage, he made a disparaging remark about surrealism (This incident obviously left a mark on me since I belately realize that I mentioned this earlier in june of 2009 on this blog). Which I thought was surreal in and of fact now that I'm thinking of it, similar to a comment which Alan Sondheim, one-time director of the old Nexus art center made as he walked around the house, something to the effect of 'Gee, look at all this outmoded surrealism!! I began thinking about those two stores as I worked on a bit of writing for the page on reflections on the new Salvador Dali exhibit at the High Museum.)

(photos taken by Sandrine Arons)

Certainly the old southern yard was a kitschy affair with its everted truck tires painted white, bottle trees and general bric-a-brac, all going be the way side as modernisms antisepticism made its way. But maybe this southern kitsch was ahead of its time, the time of objects, of stuff, things, the banal pushed into the forefront of consciousness and laden over a fecund patch of the garden to grow later into PKDick's 'kipple'...glorious piles of stuff proliferating everywhere, capitalist materialism's cornucopia pushed to its suffocating limit.....and then all that stuff beginning to mate with and hybridize it's 'stuffness'...and now that I think about it, much like nature's fecundity transferred to the machine, Perhaps THAT is our new hybridized surreal, the machine becoming the plant-like ooze of almost-automatic production. 

I seem to be getting out of hand (and head) here so herewith a couple of new pot designs, combination of cement and hypertufa, susceptible to being painted if so desired. These are a couple of special orders for H. and C.  Thanks guys!!