Growing vegetables, herbs, etc. in a small urban space

Hoping for Bats

It was, I think, after having been eaten nearly alive when painting the exterior of my house, that my handyman asked me whether I wanted him to put up a bat house.  “Oh yes,” was my enthusiastic response.  “I love bats.”  The bat house is up.  I hope against hope that some bats will make their way into my little yard in an inner city alley and come to feast on the mosquitoes.  I am not holding my breath, but anything can happen.  One day, a couple of years ago, a hummingbird appeared out of no where to hover in my garden.


“Meet and Greet” with Tommy Wells

On Friday night, I went to a neighbor’s house for a “meet and greet” with Tommy Wells, who is running for reelection for the Ward 6 Member of the DC Council.  I had received an email invitation and was thinking about going.  Then on Friday morning, a neighbor who is just around the corner stopped by to give me an invite in case I hadn’t gotten the email.  I decided it was important to go to connect with neighbors I already know and like, to meet new neighbors, to clarify my thoughts further about the upcoming primaries (don’t forget to vote!), and to get a chance to talk to my council member.

I walked the two blocks to the party with nothing in my pockets but my keys.  Even though I did not know the hosts, I knew or recognized from the neighborhood at least half the people who were there.  Given the purpose of the gathering, much if the discussion about what changes we would like to see in the neighborhood and the city to make our lives better (and, of course, I gave information about installing solar panels to a couple more neighbors).

Tommy Wells speaks to my condition, because he takes action in connection with his campaign slogan:  “a livable, walkable city.”  After we all had time to catch up with each other, Tommy’s campaign manager gave a solid introduction, talking about key accomplishments in the past four years.  Tommy then talked about what he wanted to do next and fielded questions, including ones about the disposable bag 5 cent fee, which has cut down pollution in the river significantly) and what is going on with the community gardeners at Virginia Avenue v. the marines.

I, like the others, came with a specific question, but I did not ask it in the group.  I was not sure that everyone present would be in agreement with me, and I did not want to cause controversy.  I asked about it afterwards, when people went back to connecting and enjoying the food.  Tommy recognized me, probably from my three-year stint as a member of the Board of Directors of the Eastern Market Preservation and Development Corporation, which coincided with the time when Tommy was getting noticeably serious about his engagement in politics as a way to make some visions actual.

“I gave up my car for the war,” I started.  “That’s great,” replied Tommy, “thank you.”  We followed up a little on living without a car in the neighborhood.  Then I got to my point.

“Every time I walk to work, it feels like I am taking my life in my hands,” I continued, after thanking the District for having put a four-way stop and zebra crossings at the intersection of Constitution Ave. and 10th St., NE.  “I did not want to bring this up in the group, because I was not sure how everyone would feel, but I have a few locations where I think it would be great to have a traffic camera.”  I then described the intersections I had in mind.  He told me that he has a task force on pedestrian issues, and that if I went to his website, I could contact Ann Phelps, who would be interested in hearing the suggestions for particular intersections.  He left me know that the District is getting more cameras and the cameras are mobile, so it would not be hard to try the different intersections suggested.

“Wow, that’s wonderfully more responsive than I’d dreamed,” I thought.  I thanked him and left to talk to other friends and to give other people time to ask their own questions.

These are the times when I truly love being part of a neighborhood.  It is not just about being able to walk to a party two blocks from your house hosted by someone you have never met and know or recognize at least a few people and find all sorts of connections and commonalities.  It is not just about sharing a way of life that holds a similar commitment to the city, even if politics, religion, work, and lifestyle in other ways are diverse.  It is also about meeting people who care and have depth and out of a true calling for service truly give of themselves to make things better for all of us.


Solar Panel Installation Update

Last week the supplemental electrical panel necessitated by living in “this Old House” was installed.  The existing panel did not have room for the solar panels to be connected.

Today, the DC Building inspector came, inspected, and gave approval (conditional on contractor sending photos of the roof).  Last step is to get PEPCO to come and change the meter.  That could take a couple of weeks.  Meanwhile, there is no rain in the 15-day forecast.  Best start doing the rain dances.


Another Storm Passes Without Any Rain Falling Inside the Beltway

What’s a gardener and concerned for the trees and the health of the planet citizen to do?  I’ve got enough water in the rain barrel to water the vegetables and herbs once or twice, but what impact does that really have?  At work, people were grumbling because it was cloudy.  They seemed shocked when I advised them that we are an inch under normal rainfall for August and have a fairly significant deficit for the summer despite the July rains.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could move some of the flood waters that have fallen only a couple hundred miles away to irrigate our fields without disrupting our eco-system?  Part of me just wants not to know about the consequences of global climate change, but it is hard not to notice that all the weather patterns I used to know and understand do not seem to apply quite the same way anymore.  What do we do when the systems and practices we have in place for our ease, comfort, well-being, and understood day-to-day peace of mind are disrupted?

Yoga will not fix the big outer problems, but it can provide us with the steadiness and ease needed to stay present and be flexible in the face of crisis, upheaval, or disease.  It can also provide insight into how we can live in better alignment.  In the meantime, I am practicing gratitude.  I know how blessed I am that, so far, the wild upheavals I read about in the news have not kept me from all the food and comfort that a person could possibly want.  And I pay attention, because to be ignorant ultimately never serves ourselves or others.


Sprouted Lentil and Cucumber Salad

I brought sprouted lentil and cucumber salad to a potluck dinner at a neighbor’s house last night. The host had spent a fair amount of time in the kitchen. I commented that perhaps it wasn’t right that I’d brought a salad that only took about ten minutes to prepare. Then I thought about what went into my preparations. First, I grew the cucumber. Then – sprouted the lentils. One of my friends said in response to my saying I’d sprouted the lentils, “Elizabeth, you know there are the Whole Foods and The Harris Teeter. You don’t have to make your own sprouts.”
(Oh, you can just imagine, dear reader, my initial unspoken response in my head.)
“Yes, I do know that,” I responded, but there are so many reasons to do your own sprouting.”
1. Especially in winter, home sprouts are the freshest greens you will get.
2. No salmonella with home sprouts. (This got an enthusiastic back up from a fellow guest who was now thinking maybe she should start sprouting.)
3. Cuts way down on plastic waste. Consider how sprouts are packaged for supermarket sale.
4. Cost savings–a very inexpensive food instead of one marketed as a high-cost gourmet specialty food. (The conversation took on a life of its own; I no longer needed to be the advocate).

The Recipe:

Peel and seed a cucumber or two. Cut into 1/2″ or slightly larger dice. Mince about 1/6 cup sweet onion or white and pale green part scallion (or more or less to taste). Add a couple of generous handfuls of lentil sprouts. Use more sprouts than cucumbers if serving as the main feature of a cool summer light meal instead of as a side salad. Splash with olive oil and then toss to coat. Add a little balsamic, red wine, or sherry vinegar. Toss again. Add salt and pepper to taste. I also added minced cilantro and jalapeno because the main course was enchiladas. For an Italian version, try with fresh basil and a little green or red bell pepper. For a Spanish style salad, use parsley and replace the vinegar with lemon juice. Think of your own variations and don’t be shy about sharing.


Waking Up in the Dark (a Hint of Autumn)

This week I have really noticed the light changing.  When I start my morning meditation, the day is just dawning, not full daylight.  The cat is not waking me up an hour before the electronic wake-up call, but is rather showing up just before it goes off (he is acting in sync with my routine rather than with the birds’).   Even though the days are still hot, there are hints of autumn in the smell of the leaves and certain breezes.  The first of the late summer fruits and vegetables are starting to come.

Are you noticing the subtle shifts?  Has it changed what you want to practice and how you are feeling when you practice?


Sensing the Subtle Energies (an Earthquake)

I woke up around 4 o’clock this morning, inexplicably agitated and unable to fall back asleep right away. Sully, too, was restless. I went into the yoga room and did a series of restorative forward bends and twists, which provided some ease, but I was still a little restless and unable to go back to sleep.

It was too far out of my usual experience for living in DC and too little impact at my house (compared to what it was reported to have felt like in some of the suburban areas) to have identified the earthquake for what it was.

When I called the weather, which advised of the earthquake, I knew that its immanence was what had caused me to wake in anticipatory anxiety.