Archive for November, 2010

“Thanksgiving is always a great time to think about food” says J. Dennis Slaughter, District Supervisor of the Marion County Soil and Water Conservation District.  Dennis continues, “We are now having more urban communities seeking ways to encourage local residents to potentially raise their own food in a sustainable fashion”  “Many of these communities are sharing their ideas about how they are fostering community development through projects relating to food production and other urban farming ideas”.  Those interested in this concept can learn more about the work of a group called, “Nuestras Raíces”, a community development organization in Holyoke, Massachusetts that fosters human, economic, and community development through projects relating to food, agriculture, and the environment.  A webinar on the topic “Agri-Cultural” Community Development will be hosted on December 3, 2010 at 12:00 noon Eastern time.  A webinar is simply a training process, usually with video and audio, that people can access on the internet.  Interested participants will need to register prior to the free webinar by going to:  http://www.vitanuova.net/journal/2010/09/december-32010-nuestras-raices-agri-cultural-community-development.html.

The webinar will feature Ms. Calandrella who will be talking about “La Finca,” a community urban farm and beginning farmer incubation program; a recruitment and training model, network of farm businesses, events and culture, and youth programs.  Learn how Nuestras Raíces has worked with the Latino community of Holyoke Massachusetts for asset-based and culture-centered community development.  This webinar is part of Vita Nuova’s Sustainability Series of webinars.  For more links and details about past webinars visit the same web site mentioned above.  Register for Vita Nuova’s monthly Sustainability Series Webinars – FREE!  The webinars are held on the last Friday of each month for one hour and feature experts from around the country who present interesting and current discussions on sustainable development topics.  To learn more about Vita Nuova, a national leader in the repositioning and redevelopment of complex sites and neighborhoods, visit their website at: http://www.vitanuova.net/.


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With the title “Poisoned Waters” a recent Frontline Public Broadcasting Station (PBS) program certainly catches our attention.  “Poisoned Waters”, an investigative report with Hedrick Smith as correspondent, shows the kinds of pollution now contaminating America’s waterways, political obstacles blocking restoration of great estuaries like the Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound, and some local strategies that have scored successes.  The documentary video was designed to stimulate public discussion of crucial issues and effective techniques of water pollution control.  It is intended for teachers, parents, and anyone interested in improving water quality in the US.  Those interested in watching “Poisoned Waters” can do so on-line, obtain other resources about the program, and learn what they can do. Visit the web at www.pbs.org/frontline/poisonedwaters .  Information to obtain a copy of the program’s DVD is at the same website or by calling PBS 1-800-531-4727.


When Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972, it called for America’s waterways to be swimmable and fishable again by 1983.  But our great waterways are still in peril and face new waves of pollution.  For a decade or so after the Clean Water Act, tough enforcement by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made significant gains by targeting “point sources pollution”- pollution coming out of a pipe- the EPA repaired some of the worst damage.  But the challenge today is more complex, largely because today’s pollution is nearly invisible.


Contaminants pervade our lives.  Harmful chemicals exist in everyday consumer products from home cleaning agents to pesticides and herbicides that we use on our lawns, to personal care products like toothpaste, deodorants, shampoos, certain soaps, and discarded pharmaceuticals.  When it rains, stormwater runoff from roads and highways carries a toxic cocktail from our trucks and cars, our farms and rooftops, our driveways and parking lots into our rivers, streams, lakes, and bays.  Add to that the enormously damaging runoff from agricultural operations across the country, primarily large livestock operations.  The runoff from manure piles carries not only bacteria and e coli into our waterways but also excess nitrogen and phosphorus, and they spawn the dead zones which suffocate crabs, oysters, fish, and other species.  The third major challenge comes from growth and the sprawl of development- millions of people crowding into the land that lies close to our major waterways and paving over thousands of acres of forest and farmland.  These congregations of people not only cause gridlock and ugly sprawl, but spells disaster for the quality of water, unless we learn how to mitigate the impact of so much unchecked growth.


Solutions do exist.  Local communities are cleaning up old industrial sites.  Watershed coalitions are recovering natural habitat for endangered species.  Grass roots groups have curbed uncontrolled growth.  Suburban counties have adopted “Smart Growth” strategies.  Others have tackled the difficult issues of better land use to protect the environment.  So steps can be taken.  Each of us has an important role.  So use the video to increase your awareness of water quality issues, and then join with your local community organization, government, and soil and water conservation district (SWCD) to help clean up you local waters.


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Ron Lauster, Director of the Marion County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) says, “He remembers at the beginning of the Lone Ranger TV show, the opening lines included the phrase return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear”. Ron continues, “I don’t know if it is thrilling or not, but we have been getting more people contacting our office asking about raising chickens”. Just like rain barrels coming back from the past, we now have more people interested in gardening, and yes, some even want to raise chickens. Apparently backyard poultry is a growing trend throughout the US. Raising chickens is becoming more popular as Americans seek a direct connection to their food. So, if you’re interested in raising chickens, you may want to seek some basic assistance. Start by going to the “Back Yard Chickens” website at http://www.backyardchickens.com . The site also offers a “Raising Chickens 101 page at: http://www.backyardchickens.com/raising-chickens-basics.php which provides a lot of great basic information, including the care for the first 60 days and later after you get your flock established. Homeowners are first reminded to check with local government zoning and homeowner association requirements before they begin bringing home roosters and hens.

A few of the most frequently expressed reasons people raise chickens are- They are easy and inexpensive to maintain (when compared to most other pets); their eggs are fresh, great-tasting & nutritious; they provide chemical-free bug and weed control; and they manufacture the worlds best fertilizer. Some say they are fun & friendly pets with personality (yes, you read that right). Whether you raise poultry for meat and eggs or because you want to show your birds at fairs and festivals; whether you have a big flock or a few hens, keeping them healthy is a priority. Give the birds sufficient space, keep their area clean, keep food and water covered and change them daily. It also is important to keep predators away from your birds and minimize the contact your poultry has with wild birds. Additional information about raising chickens is also available from your local Purdue Extension Service office. In Marion County their web site is at: http://www.ag.purdue.edu/counties/marion and phone number is 317-275-9305

As the number of backyard chickens increases, so does the need to educate owners about keeping their flocks healthy. That’s why the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (USDA/APHIS) “Biosecurity for Birds” campaign is renewing its efforts to provide concise and helpful tips to prevent the spread of infectious bird diseases such as avian influenza (AI). USDA- Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) reminds owners to keep their birds healthy and free of disease: Restrict access to your property and birds. Wash your hands with soap, water and disinfectant before and after working with your birds. Clean and disinfect your clothes, shoes, equipment and hands after handling your flock. Do not share tools or equipment with other owners and know the warning signs of bird diseases. For more chicken safety details visit http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/birdbiosecurity.

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before junk tree removal

before brush/junk tree removal - future compost site

We chipped *a lot*of brush Saturday and Sunday…and we’ll use the mulch at the future Broadway Community Garden at 3415 Broadway Street. In the meantime, the mulch pile (4 feet tall and 30 feet long – piled at the back of the lot directly adjacent to the alley) will act as a deterrent for those ne’er-do-wells that like to park on the lot to conduct…transactions.

We had a great time cutting brush from yards and alleyways in the 3300 and 3400 blocks of Broadway in the weeks prior, and several neighbors took advantage of the opportunity to trim junk trees and drop off the brush to be chipped. The chipping is always fun (if loud), and we now have plenty of raw material (as well as a nice, sunny lot) to support new garden beds next spring.

a lot of brush to be chipped...

compost area (left) and wood chip "berm"

In the course of clearing brush at the site of community garden, we also uncovered some long-forgotten sections of chain-link fence – they are configured perfectly to serve as a bin for leaf composting, which will in turn provide us with rich soil.

Special Thanks to neighbor John Kerwin who has worked diligently on the Broadway Community

Garden from the first planning meeting to chipping brush all day both Saturday and Sunday, Philip Hooper who lent a hand (and his chainsaw) felling trees, and neighbor Charles who provided wonderful barbecued sausages and fixings before the rain came on Saturday.

all chipped – doesn’t it look nice?

Enjoy the pictures. We’ll do it again next year…Chip Happens 2011!

Tyson & Sarah

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