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  • Green Idea 1 : ' Find your nearest Farmer's Market and go there this weekend with friends...
  • Green Idea 2 : ' Swap your old incandescent bulbs for CFLs when they burn out and start saving $$$
  • Green Idea 3 : ' Try using your bike this weekend instead of your car...
  • Green Idea 4 : ' This Spring why not plant a small kitchen garden of tomatoes and peppers on your balcony or patio?
  • Green Idea 5 : ' What are you waiting for? Make the change today!

    The basic objectives of sustainability are to reduce consumption of non-renewable resources, minimize waste, and create healthy, productive environments.


    You can grow your own food whether you live on a rural farm or in a tiny urban apartment. Urban gardening is all about using space wisely to regain a closer connection with your food and beautify your home or neighborhood.


    Explore energy resources, such as wind, solar, hydroelectric, biomass, geothermal, ocean thermal, and wave power, that replenish themselves within a short period.


    Locating the Farmers' Market nearest to you is now only a few clicks away. Localharvest.org is a useful and straight-forward site designed to faciliate your quest.


"What's Awesome" Episode 1: SHANGHAI KICKSTART with Dr. Bruce Damer

Posted by vergelimbo On 5:13 AM

This is the first episode of the podcast "What's Awesome", hosted by Philip Oulton of Starseed Gardens, Byron Bay, Australia. The audio engineer for "What's Awesome" is Robert Bruce, and the music is by Psychedelic State.

The "What's Awesome" podcast features interviews with experts from the fields of Science, Architecture, Psychology, Permaculture and The Arts.

Upcoming Episodes Will Feature:
Dr. Bruce Damer, scientist, researcher, visionary. Fresh from his TED talks exploring the origins of life, and space travel. Bruce will be featured in the first two episodes.
Robert Lawlor, artist, historian, and author of "Sacred Geometry" and "Voices of the First Day".
Dan Schreiber, creative director and founder of Starseed Gardens, polymath, gardener. and new earth imagineer.
Drew Heath. Award-winning Australian architect, lecturer, builder and provocative visionary. Drew will discuss, among other things, his recent foray into what he calls "Agritecture".

"What's Awesome" is created and hosted by Philip Oulton and supported by Starseed Gardens - a 35 acre mixed-use permaculture model and Earth School dedicated to evolving plant/human culture and nurturing eco-systems of perpetual renewal. www.starseedgardens.com

"What's Awesome" is available on SoundCloud.
Like it on  facebook at www.facebook.com/WhatsAwesomePodcast

Leave your comments below, and any suggestions...


Dr. Bruce Damer: "Starseeding The Cosmos" LIVE @Starseed Gardens

Posted by vergelimbo On 2:02 AM

 Dr. Bruce Damer is an explorer on the liminal realms between the magisteria of science and tech and the mysteria of delivered vision. He treads multiple pathways including a caring inquiry of where the simplest forms of life emerged at its origins to the design of spacecraft for the expansion of beautiful complex life of today into the cosmos. Now and then he finds himself in the larger mystery of consciousness and contact with something greater and strives to return with the story intact.
More on Dr. Bruce at www.damer.com and his podcast, the Levity Zone at: www.levityzone.org

This All Day Event: July 12th, 2015 at Starseed Gardens

Dr. Bruce Damer lands (again) at Starseed Gardens, July 12th, for a provocative series of talks and explorations on topics including:
"StarSeed - Seeding the Stars Growing Life into the Solar System."
"Genesis: New Models for the Origin of Life and Rethinking our Civilization."
"The Shaman: Dancing with the Plants these Ninety Million Years."

This will be a special fund-raising event to establish a research center at The Starseed Gardens EARTHed School to explore and research plant/human culture, living water, soil science and Harmonic Habitations for a more sustainable future.
This all-day event will showcase Bruce's cutting edge ideas, lively discussion, moderated by Starseed's program director, Philip Oulton, as well as presentations by Starseed's founder and creative director, Dan Schreiber. Tom Duncan and others (TBA) using inter-active media as well as live musical performances by Danidoo Butterfly and film screenings in the evening.

Scientist and designer Bruce Damer shares his thoughts -- and breathtakingly bold designs -- on how humanity can create a sustainable presence in space. His innovative ideas for sustainable space travel posit that we CAN go to Mars, and it doesn't have to be a one way trip!

From Bruce's Recent TEDx Talk:

A Donation of $25 for the day's activities
15$ for students/concession card.

Delicious Food, hot chai and tasty snacks will be available for purchase throughout the day. A warm fire and scintillating, mind-blowing discussions will be all around.

Don't miss this opportunity to see something amazing, and show support for Starseed Gardens, the community and our future.

RAW Instrument-Making Workshop: Learn to make your own instrument in 2 days!

Posted by vergelimbo On 1:33 AM

A 2-day workshop on Raw Instrument making held at Starseed Gardens in the Art Studio, a pleasant work space equipped with all the necessary tools and know-how, led by local musician and inspired maker Rob Dibble. What are Raw Instruments? Found, and recycled elements such as biscuit tins, oil cans, hardwood tomato stakes etc properly strung to resemble distant cousins of banjos, violins, cellos, whatever you want. The sounds these RAW instruments produce is nothing short of amazing! They can be electrified with a "pick-up" and played through an amp to surprising effect.

Watch This Video from the first Raw Instrument Workshop held at Starseed Gardens:

What participants need to bring; 
Creative ideas, a willingness to explore, a can-do attitude and should you have a cool old biscuit tin or oil can, any striking bits of wood or recycled whoop-de-doos that you think could be included in your instrument - bring them along. The materials are included, but you may choose to customize your raw instrument with whichever element you bring along. A RAW lunch will be provided both days, and camping at Starseed is available for 25$ per day. (BYOT-bring your own tent, hot showers, WIFI and kitchen included) Message me below if you are interested in camping with us as space is limited.
COST: $150 for both days including meals and concert

All participants will leave the workshop with their instrument in hand, and a free ticket to the RAW JAM session in The Lotus Teahouse featuring talented local musicians (TBA)

ALSO AVAILABLE for minimal cost:
Electric pick-ups
Fancier tuning screws
other cool upgrade stuff!

Instrument making facilitated by Rob (raw instrumentalist) Phil (woodworker) and Chris (multimaker)


Harmonic Habitations Conference @Starseed Gardens November 2015

Posted by vergelimbo On 11:53 PM

"Harmonic Habitations" is the name of an annual event to be held at Starseed Gardens, Byron Bay, Australia during the last week of November. It will showcase cutting edge design, the latest in building technology, optimized location, Sacred Geomentry-inspired zero-impact dwellings, self-sustaining permaculture habitats and alternative-energy technologies will be showcased and explained by leaders in the field.  Bringing together designers, architects, builders, permaculturalists, alternative energy experts and building materials for demonstration builds, design competitions, and onsite demos, Harmonic Habitations will become of the 4 "anchor" events at Starseed Gardens. 

The annual events at Starseed Gardens include:

Harmonic Habitations Expo Novemebr 2015
Somara: The Shamanic Medicine Forum returning  February 2016 
The Permaculture/Community Convergence held  June 2016
The Upcycling/Reuse and Regenerative Art Conference held September 2016 

For more info on Starseed Gardens, a regenerative agriculture project and upcycled industrial piggery turned permaculture garden community, nursery, workshop center, Tea House, foodforest, Wellness and Sustainable Living "EARTHed School" located 5 minutes from Byron Bay, Australia.

For information on any of these events, or to register your interest in participating, contact info@starseedgardens (attn: Phil)

or find us on facebook: www.facebook.com/starseedgardens.

Leave a comment below and get involved in the discussion!


Starseed Gardens Hosts Praxis Film Series: July 6 screening: EDIBLE CITY

Posted by vergelimbo On 3:43 AM

Starseed Gardens, located a five minute drive from Byron Bay, is proudly hosting the second film in their monthly Praxis Film Festival. The film, Edible City: Grow the Revolution is a fun, fast-paced, feature-length documentary journey through the local Good Food movement that’s taking root in the San Francisco Bay Area, across the nation and around the world. Edible City introduces a diverse cast of extraordinary and eccentric characters who are challenging the paradigm of our broken food system. The movie digs deep into their unique perspectives and transformative work– from edible education to grassroots activism to building local economies— finding hopeful solutions to some monumental problems.

Starseed Gardens is a pioneering home of plant-human culture and harmonic relationships showcasing alternative bio-technologies and practical permaculture located within a lush botanical ark.

More information can be obtained by clicking here. Invite some of your friends and enjoy the beautiful setting of the restored Grain Shed, the delicious food that will be on hand and share in the co-operative experience of interested and interesting locals.


The Dawn of a New Era: Byron Bay, Uplift Festival 2012

Posted by vergelimbo On 5:51 PM

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

The end-date of the Mayan calendar's 5,125 year cycle on the December solstice of  2012 has become a major focal point for ideas about planetary  change. While some may view this as a catastrophic end, fueled by  economic, social, and environmental crisis, a unique opportunity exists to harness this global attention into an event that celebrates the essential unity of humanity, and all life. UPLIFT 2012 is an event created to celebrate this rare moment and herald the  birth of a new paradigm of consciousness.

Given that Byron Bay, Australia is one of the most eastern points in Western Civilisation, it will be the first continent to welcome this new chapter of global cooperation and co-creativity. We invite you to join this unprecedented  event from December  20-23 for open discussions of science, wellness, art, music, ecology, indigenous culture and the wisdom of youth.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos


Fall Planting Guide: USDA Hardiness Zones By Zipcode

Posted by vergelimbo On 11:45 PM

The first week of September was a week of falling rain and falling temperatures here in Winston-Salem. Much of my summer crop was still producing, but I made room for interplanting some fall vegetables, such as kohlrabi and brocolli. Other fall veggies that grow well in my garden are Dinosaur Kale, collard greens, swiss chard and fall squash. In the photo you can see the long row of kohlrabi, and the widely spaced brocolli. The rain was welcome, and within a few days the seedlings had almost tripled in size!

A Day Before The Attack...

I took the photo above on a Friday evening... I noticed that something had eaten one of my brocolli plants. Humn. "Might be time to build a small fence", I thought. I had recently expanded my Urban Garden Project to the creekside area of the lot, which is unfenced on one side. So, the next day, I bought some black nylon mesh and cut down some 1-inch bamboo and was preparing to erect the fence when I saw that ALL my broccoli and kohlrabi had been devoured - in one day! 24 kohlrabi and 12 broccoli-devoured overnight by ravenous (gluttonous?) critters.

Does it say "All You Can Eat"?

While I was worrying whether it was too late to plant my brocolli, somewhere, perhaps in a groundhog burrow, someone was thinking "Man, am I hungry!" Now, I'm okay with "sharing" my garden's bounty with the local fauna, but the "All You Can Eat" attitude of my interloper was unexpected. I returned to Myers Nursery the following day to buy replacements but as luck would have it they had sold out. So, I'm learning to live with the loss... [cue violin music]

USDA Plant Hardiness Zones:
Depending on where you garden, different plants can be planted at different times of the year. Knowing how late or how early you can safely plant your seeds or seedlings is crucial to the productive success of your garden. After carefully choosing and perhaps even growing your seedlings from specific seeds indoors, nothing can be more heartbreaking than an unexpected frost or hungry critter.

Click on the map image and you will be redirected to a page where you can input your zip code to get your precise "hardiness zone" and better determine what you can plant and when. And remember to build that fence if you have hungry rabbits, deer or groundhogs in the neighborhood.

Please leave your comments below!

Global Warming: Does It Matter If You "Believe In It?"

Posted by vergelimbo On 6:45 AM



A recent study by Yale University suggests that the extreme weather conditions experienced across the US have had a direct impact on increasing the number of Americans who now believe in Global Warming (GW). The study explains that recent record-breaking temperatures, deadly tornadoes, destructive floods, severe droughts and related forest fires raging across several states have turned many former climate change skeptics into GW believers - although most of these recent converts are still unwilling to accept any "anthropogenic" or human responsibility for the phenomena. The study also suggests that former GW skeptics may be more willing to acknowledge rising global temperatures if they have recently experienced a particularly sweltering day. An apparent confusion between weather and climate seems to be responsible for much of this effect.

The cartoon above satirically underscores how the framed debate in the media on climate change results in a time and energy-wasting distraction from the practical objectives of addressing the negative effects of climate change on the quality and diversity of human, plant and animal life. Any loss of biodiversity is irreversible. Regardless of one's current opinion of the climate change debate, the objectives listed on the board (above) are universally valid and positive objectives for all of humanity to strive for. Wouldn't you agree?

Meteorologists study and record the weather. Climate  scientists study the world-wide trends of weather over time. Essentially, the main difference between weather and climate is one of scale and time. Weather is the condition of the local atmosphere over a short period of time, whereas climate describes the condition of Earth's atmosphere and how it "behaves" over relatively longer periods of time.


This summer's record-breaking temperatures and drought conditions across much of the US, have caused many people to reconsider the threat of global warming. Recent polls suggest that more Americans now "believe" that the planet is warming - as if it were a matter of personal choice, rather than an empirical matter of science. Does this distinction matter? The scientific theory of global warming includes the anthropogenic role in accelerating the warming trend by increased man-made emissions of greenhouse gases and other forms of industrial pollution. But does it really matter whether one believes the scientific theory of global warming, or can one believe that what the scientists call "climate change" is simply a natural phenomena of the earth's climate cycle? Proponents of both views recognize the dramatic changes in the climate and the threatening effects on human security. How important is the causal relationship to the climate discussion? Does it matter if the current scientific theory is incomplete? If we consider that in any action-based study of human society it is primarily the behaviour (action) that is important: The "what we did" or "did not do" in a particular situation is what is of ultimate importance. Our behavior, expressed through action, and in particular the effect of that action is primarily what concerns us. The reasoning which led to the behaviour is in many cases private, instinctive, or unknown. So long as the outcome of the action is a positive one, the "why" we behaved in such a way is rarely considered. This is a rather oversimplified view, but often, a simple explanation can provide a needed "toehold" for discussion. Ultimately, our behaviour can matter more than our reasoning:

I was probably 7 or 8 years old when I stopped "believing" in the Tooth Fairy. But that didn't stop me from placing my baby teeth under the pillow when they fell out. Perhaps I no longer believed in the "Tooth Fairy" per se, but I still believed that if I placed a tooth under the pillow (wrapped in tissue paper of course) that I would be rewarded with a quarter the following morning... or maybe even fifty cents in the rare case of a molar.

It's not surprising that the environmental threat of climate change seems to evoke such strong emotional reactions and varied opinions. After all, the lives of all living things on earth are influenced by changes to their environment, and taking responsibility for these changes is a daunting proposition. However, what is surprising is how so much of the actual objectives and resultant benefits of improving the health of the planet and it's inhabitants gets moderated and marginalized by layman debates in the media over the "science of climate change".

Have your opinions on "Climate Change" shifted in recent years? Do you think it matters whether you believe in the scientific model of Global Warming, or is it simply enough to behave in such a way that your actions help to reduce further environmental damage, and take steps to restore or improve the environment? Was there a particular event or experience which caused you to reconsider your relationship to the environment?

Please share your comments, observations or criticisms by clicking the "Post a Comment" link below!


Lost and Found Byron Bay: Bike Lock

Posted by vergelimbo On 1:08 AM

Last week I found a bicycle lock while I was cycling into town. It was the cable type with a 5-digit combination, and quite expensive. I live a few kilometers outside the center of Byron Bay, and there is a decent bike path most of the way into town that is well travelled by hundreds of commuting cyclists every day. On this particular day I was racing into town during a brief pause between rain showers to get some groceries. This winter has been the "wettest" on recent record, and as my bike is my primary means of transportation, these rare breaks between showers have to be exploited. It was still drizzling a fine mist as I pedaled my way along the wet bike path towards town.

By no means could it have been considered "a good day for cycling". Nonetheless, there were more cyclists on the road that day than on the sunniest of summer days. Apparently, the cycling community of Byron writ-large was capitalizing on the temporary reprieve from the rain to "get into town". Mid-way along my journey I spied a bike lock on the edge of the path where the concrete meets the green verge of lawn. "Bummer", I thought as I instinctively applied my brakes. The front and rear pads squealed in whining protest as their worn surfaces pinched the wet rims of my wheels. I completed the 180 degree turn and cycled back to pick up the lock. It was a quality lock, and I knew from personal experience that it would be sorely missed...

A few months before, I had lost a very similar cable-lock when it apparently fell out of an open pocket in my rucksack. Realizing it was missing, I quickly retraced my route, cycling around town looking for my lock in the roadside rain gutters and near the posts and poles where I had stopped. I never found it. I kept up my search for the next few days, scanning for high-visibility spots where perhaps some cycling Samaritan might have left it for me to easily find. As a last resort, I visited the "Lost and Found" at the Information Center, but to no avail. A few days later I conceded the loss and bought a new lock. That was back in late May - the beginning of wettest Winter in Australian history.

So, when a few months later, I spotted that cable-lock by the side of the path, I really did sympathize with it's owner. After I picked up the lost lock, I looked around for the most highly visible location where I thought I might place it to increase it's chance of being found by the owner. (See photo above) I reasoned that much in the same manner in which we have all seen car hubcaps intentionally propped up against the sidewalk - usually in a particularly sharp curve of the road, where they tend to spin off. A certain type of person had placed it specifically there: upright and clearly visible, in hopes that it might eventually be collected by it's owner should they drive again along their familiar route. Similarly, I imagined, every cyclist making their way into town would be confronted by the lost lock as they slowed to enter the large roundabout on Bangalow Road. They might mention having seen it to other cyclists if asked. It rested, neatly coiled, atop that pole for three consecutive rainy days. It was picked up by someone the fourth day. It was the first sunny day in weeks. I choose to believe that it is now reunited with it's owner... after all, it would be of no use to anyone without the combination.


Words Are Important: Definition of "NORGANIC"

Posted by vergelimbo On 2:10 AM

Sometimes you simply need to invent a NEW WORD in order to accurately describe a NEW PHENOMENA!

Have you heard any neologisms (new words) lately that have stuck with you? Or maybe you have coined a few of your own to fill some gaps in our lexicon. New words, and their recorded definitions, are in continuous demand to describe the increasingly complex physical and intellectual world in which we live. Language is responsive to this need. The Urban Dictionary is an online, open-source dictionary that allows people to submit their neologisms for editorial review, and inclusion  if the new word and definition meet certain guidelines. Over the years I have added many new words that I felt were lacking from our 21st century vocabulary. [here are some] Generally, more arcane words slip from popular usage, while new words - either created or adopted from other languages - enter common usage and understanding. In simple terms, this is how a language evolves over time. The English language has proved the most adept of all languages at "absorbing" foreign and new words into it's expanding dictionaries. This open-source dynamic has made English the lingua franca of commerce throughout the world.

What do you think of this article? Why not leave a comment below, and perhaps include examples of your own word creations and definitions. If you like the word "NORGANIC", and recognize it's significance in our mega-corporatized world of deceptive marketing, then use it with confidence. Explain the definition if anyone asks. I have found that people tend to intuitively understand the word and it's value quite easily.

If you like the word "NORGANIC" and it's definition click the THUMBS UP icon here: NORGANIC on "The Urban Dictionary".


Gluten-Free is NOT a Flavour...

Posted by vergelimbo On 2:07 AM

In recent years there has been a staggering proliferation of confusing new food labels appearing on items found on your supermarket shelves. Interpreting these new "dietary hieroglyphs" can be a challenge to even the most informed consumer. While some labels are issued by research-based Certifying Authorities and offer thorough explanations of what they signify, others are underpinned by less empirical foundations, if any at all. But which are which? The food-label design market is undergoing an unprecedented boom. (insert graphic here) It would seem that now would be an ideal time to be a graphic designer! The examples below, of competing symbols for the "Gluten-Free" label, are only a small sample of the myriad of symbols currently vying for pre-eminence in the new and increasingly lucrative "Gluten-Free" food market.

Apparent Difficulty Reaching Consensus On Label For "Gluten-Free" Foods

MEANWHILE, overheard at a grocery store near you:

"Do  you guys want to get some ice-cream?" I  asked  hopefully, as Kim, Skye and I strolled by the frozen section at our local grocery store.  
"Yeah!", both girls exclaimed in unison.
"What flavours have they got?" Kim asked, as we stopped to look.  
I began to read the labels, "Chocolate, vanilla, coffee, strawberr..."
"I want Gluten-free!", Skye interrupted,  striking  that self-righteous pose she'd  been practicing lately. 
"Gluten-free is NOT a flavour, Skye", I managed. Kim laughed.
"Yeah, it is!", Skye exclaimed. My eyes began to roll upwards.
"No, she's right", Kim said, "it IS a flavour- it tastes like crap".  


The scenario presented above is intended purely for satirical purposes, (foodies, don't get your knickers in a knot) and the names of the consumers have been changed. Nonetheless, the truth it describes typifies a post-modern and unfortunate new trend in food consumerism and group decision-making. Eating is becoming more highly individualized and regimented, as opposed to the social and flexible activity it once was. The "Breaking of bread"(Gluten-free or otherwise) with others, sharing food and the conversation that follows is an integral part of building and living in community with others. Sharing food (nutrition for the body) and ideas (nutrition for the mind) is an essential cohesive dynamic. The more recent trend of "personalized" eating, take-away meals for one and the apparent rise in food sensitivities may foreshadow other emerging social  food/eating complications:

Have you experienced a similar "food control" issue lately? Have you perhaps avoided hosting dinner parties for fear of not being able to satisfy the ethical, political, economic, religious, and dietary needs of your friends? Have you stood for countless hours while shopping, carefully reading labels and trying to recall the precise difference between the "USDA Organic" and "Certified Organic" labels? If so...

Share Your Thoughts Below!
 For more information on the need to standardize food labels and the dangers caused by misleading or misunderstood certifications see: FOOD LABEL DANGERS



"January Joiners" Infest Gyms Worldwide!

Posted by vergelimbo On 1:59 AM

I suspect that the most common New Year's resolution made is to "Join the local gym". My suspicion is borne out by the swelling number of unfamiliar and often confused faces I see meandering around my local Y trying to figure out how certain machines work. These "January-joiners" swell the membership numbers of gyms, and cause congestion for the first few weeks of the New Year. Experience has taught me that by mid-February, attrition will claim the majority of these well intentioned, and the congestion and waiting for an open elliptical machine with a TV Monitor will become a fading memory...

What is wrong with this picture?

If you are like me, you can recall the Professor on Gilligan's Island pedalling his bamboo and coconut bicycle to generate the energy needed to operate his Rube Goldberg-esque laboratory. Perhaps inspired by the Professor's ingenuity, Windstream llc is currently marketing a Bicycle Generator Kit that can easily adapt to fit any standard bicycle and generate and store electricity.

How cool is this? When used with the portable power pack, a determined cyclist is able to generate sufficient energy to power a laptop or television. An entire bank of such bikes could reduce the energy costs of any gym. It has always seemed a "waste of energy" to me that the elliptical machines at my gym actually need to be plugged in in order to power the LED screen.
How it works:
The Bike Power Generator consists of a powder coated steel trainer frame holding a permanent magnet DC generator. Your bicycle (typical adult 27 inch wheel diameter) is mounted securely to this frame and the rear tire is positioned to turn the friction drum that has been custom fit over the generator shaft. The amount of electrical power that can be generated by the Bike Power Generator is determined by the energy available from pedaling the bicycle. (more info)

Leave me a comment by clicking on the link below!


Byron Bay's Utility Box Art: Russell and Callie

Posted by vergelimbo On 1:53 AM

Wandering around the beachside town of Byron Bay, New South Wales, you won't spot any of those eyesores of modern electrical convenience known as "utility boxes". Instead, those banal and industrial-looking urban warts have been given a makeover by two Lismore-based artists, Russell and Callie.  Their artistic boxes blend thematically into their environment, highlighting nearby subjects of interest and emphasizing the surfside imagery of Byron Bay. Art and Utility in Byron Bay!


So what is the difference between Graffiti and Street Art? When pressed, most people would seem comfortable with the distinction being made along the lines of artistic skill or technique. But such criteria can be quite subjective, and easily lead to a blurring of graffiti and street art in many cases. In Australia, the legal distinction between the two artforms is made simply on the basis of permission. Graffiti is defined under the law as "the marking of another person's property without permission". Graffiti is illegal throughout Australia. Street Art, such as the examples in the slideshow above, meet the crieria of "artistic work done with the permission of the person who owns the wall (or object) that the work is being done on, and the permission of the local council". As an example of this criteria, it can be said that the street art rendering of the Volkswagen van (top image) has thus been tagged illegally with graffiti! Ironically, the graffiti (in red) is sprayed directly above "Keep Byron Clean". Don't you just love irony?

What do you think? Have you seen anything like this in your neighbourhood?


Bike vs. Car Sales Graph

Posted by vergelimbo On 10:17 AM

Finally a trend I can get behind. Forget those tragically hip Williamsburg Wannabes and their brakeless single-speeds. All around the world bike manufacturing numbers are leaving their automotive counterparts in the dust, and that's great news for cyclists. More cyclists on the road is already leading to an increasing number of bike lanes, and increased safety through driver awareness. Wear a helmet, and use a light at night.

From The Economist:
THESE are tough times for carmakers, many of which are labouring under high oil prices, slowing demand and financial weakness. For makers of human-powered, two-wheeled vehicles, by contrast, business is booming. Giant Manufacturing, the world’s largest bicycle-maker, sold a record 460,000 units last month and is heading for its best year ever. Such is the demand for bikes that shortages were reported in New York earlier this year. In Taiwan, Giant’s home market, supply is tighter still: for many models, buyers put down deposits months before their bikes come off the assembly line.

Please leave your comments or queries below:


Review: "Plan Bee", by Susan Brackney.

Posted by vergelimbo On 10:31 AM

"Now disappearing in alarming numbers, honeybees are the unsung heroes of the food chain, essential for the pollination of apples, oranges, almonds, blueberries, and more than ninety other crops."
Find more info@ planbeebook.com

One of the long-term projects I have had on my "to do" list for the Urban Garden Project over the last few years has been to keep a few hives of bees. My friend Steve G, also an aspiring beekeeper, has been a member of the Forsyth Beekeepers' Association for some time and has encouraged me in this direction. Beekeeping has always appealed to me, and thousands of determined pollinators would benefit my garden's yield dramatically. Oh yeah...and there is the honey. Local honey, apart from tasting yummy, offers immunity to many seasonal allergy symptoms. However, my design/build work [ie: my real job] has taken off, leaving me no time to pursue my own "Plan Bee" this season. Nonetheless, I have (bee)n able to research many of the practical issues of beekeeping and that is how I came across Susan Brackney's "Plan Bee". Aptly subtitled "Everything you ever wanted to know about the hardest working creatures on the planet", Plan Bee is destined to become a cult classic.

My friend Andrea had just finished reading "Plan Bee" and was intending to sell it to a local used-book store when I stepped in. The moment I saw the dust cover and skimmed through its 192 pages I was "stung" with interest. As a designer, I very much appreciate the concept and layout of the book itself... someone with a skilled eye and subtle creativity has done very good work - from the cover art to the binding, the paper used, the fonts chosen, the page layout, the varied photographs and sketches within, through to the back-cover blurbs.

Brackney divides the book into two parts: "The Buzz about Bees" and "A Beekeeper's Life", for a total of 9 chapters with multiple sections therein. Chapter titles include such puns as: "Who's Who in the Hive", "The Bee's Knees" and "The Sweet Life". Humorous anecdotes abound. But so too does a wealth of interesting scientific, cultural, historical, environmental and practical information. This is not a textbook on beekeeping... but it will stimulate the enthusiast into pursuing more reading about bees and beekeeping, or at the very least (for the casual reader) it will draw attention to the largely unrecognized importance of bees in our world. Multiple footnotes anchor the pages - some anecdotal, some academic, but all interesting, useful and often funny. Two pages of "Further Reading and Resources" finish the book.

The writing is colloquial, accessible, concise and very entertaining. It is really quite a feat that Plan Bee contains such a range information: from beekeeping rituals in ancient Egypt to the early American beekeeping practices, to the current blight of the Varroa mite and up-to-date research on the looming and mysterious threat of Colony Collapse Disorder [CCD]. This book is one of the better "How To" books I have ever read... what it lacks in practical matters it more than makes up for in its inspiring tone, clear message and provocative futurism. Anyone could read "Plan Bee" and everyone will enjoy it. I already have 3 friends looking forward to borrowing my copy. I am hoping that they will give into their stinging desires to read "Plan Bee" and buy their own copies. An author this good deserves to be rewarded. I'll be buying another copy to give to a friend for his birthday.


Fall Slideshow: Urban Garden Project

Posted by vergelimbo On 6:30 PM

2009 was The Year of Rain at The Urban Garden Project. Whereas last year I needed to water the garden to stave off the flaccid, victorian death scenes my plants staged for me on a daily basis, in 2009, my garden was upright, lush and green - with little or no watering. Ironically, Tim and I began work on a rain collection system, with drip hoses and twin 40 gallon tanks. The rain catcher system is currently sitting in parts in the corner of my shop. I have just finished another big design/build project for Dewey's Bakery and Cafe, so I might have some free time to piece my rain catcher together so that it is up and "catching" for Spring.

The Fall/Winter plants are in, and the peppers, eggplant, and mixed lettuce are still going strong. It is November 4th, and 60 degrees. I am about to harvest some Bok Choy and Peppers, so I went looking for a Bok Choy soup recipe and found this:

Prep time: 10 min | Cooking time: 15 min | Serves: 2

1 big bunch bok choy, leaves and stems roughly chopped
1 small onion, sliced
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp Sambal Olek/red chilli paste
2 cups coconut milk
salt, to taste

ADD onions, bok choy stems, garlic and chilli paste to coconut milk in a deep pan, and let it come to a boil over medium-heat. Stir ocassionally to allow garlic and chilli paste to blend well with the coconut milk.

ADD bok choy leaves, season with salt, and turn off the heat. Cover the pan and let it sit for a few minutes till the leaves begin to wilt.

Recipe Hookup: hookedonheat.com

This simple soup looks so delicious! Do you have any favorite soup recipes to share? Leave me a comment or recipe by clicking on comments below:


Urban Garden Project: September 16th Slideshow

Posted by vergelimbo On 9:57 PM

Phew! Last Friday I finished my big design/build project for Dewey's Cafe and Bakery, and they will be opening to the hungry public Monday. The long hours and working on the weekends is over - for the moment. I have taken a small "breather" and am focused on planting the fall crops in my Urban Garden Project.

For the last four years, I have been fine-tuning the principles of organic SPIN gardening [Small Plot INtensive] in my expanding garden. Recently, I rotated some crops out, leaving the still-producing peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, beans, broccoli, melons, and okra in place, while inter-planting fall vegetables in the gaps. Spin gardening is specially conceived to maximize the production and variety of seasonal crops to ensure year round production of the gardener's favorite-or most valuable produce. My garden is roughly 1500 square feet divided into 10 raised beds, and produces more than sufficient vegetables and fruit for me and my friends. I sell any surplus at the local farmers' markets. Lately there has been a lot of surplus...

Yesterday I began planting my fall crop which includes: kholrabi, collards, broccoli, onions, beets, kale, squash, carrots, sugar snap peas, spinach, mesclun mix, radishes, chard and garlic. My huge and insatiable composter has devoured the plants I pulled up, as well as the regular "feedings" provided by a network of friends who contribute their compostable material on a regular basis.

Organic composting is an essential element of my spin gardening technique. Continually amending the soil with fresh compost and organic fertilizers such as Plant Tone, Black Kow and organic mushroon compost ensures a healthy, nutrient-rich medium for my plants to grow.

What are you planting? Let me know below:


Urban Garden Project: August Update

Posted by vergelimbo On 10:03 PM

A new farmers' market has opened just down the road from my Urban Garden Project. Reynolda Farms Market is located on Reynolda Road, behind the Karnkies Airstream cafe. Unlike other more temporary markets which occur on a specific day or time, Reynolda Farms Market is open 6 days a week. Inside you will find a variety of locally grown organic produce, specialty cheeses, sausages, grass-fed beef and such exotic items as truffle butter.

I'm really excited by their opening and have been selling my excess tomatoes and peppers there. Reynolda Farms Market has plenty of room to grow, and over the next few weeks they will be adding to their inventory to meet their customers needs. Stop by and see all they have to offer, and maybe suggest something that you wish they had.


The Whole Foods boycott

Posted by vergelimbo On 8:34 PM

If one needed another reason to continue boycotting Whole Foods, their CEO, John Mackey has given me one. See the article below for the groundswell...32000 facebook members have decided to stop spending their hard earned money there and I'm pleased to learn that facebook has a use beyond alerting me to birthdays.
I say: F**k Whole Paycheck and their $8 arugula that was monocultured on industrial farms 1500 miles away and shipped in plastic bags. Buy Local Food...or grow your own. It is fresher, cheaper, will stimulate the local economy and build community. Find your nearest farmers' market here: http://localharvest.org

Whole Foods boycott/buycott showdown

Dante Chinni
The Christian Science Monitor: 09.02.2009

There are many commandments in retail, but above them all is one rule: Know thy customer.

If you run Wal-Mart, don’t stock Louis Vuitton – or at least not real Louis Vuitton. If you work at Toys ‘R’ Us, where some shoppers are kids, watch your language. And if you are the CEO of relentlessly progressive Whole Foods, the upscale grocery store that specializes in organic items, don’t come out against the Obama administration’s healthcare proposals.

On Aug. 11, John Mackey, the chairman and CEO of Whole Foods, did just that. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed headlined “The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare,” Mr. Mackey said a number of things that might not sit well with his clientele – perhaps most memorably, “the last thing our country needs is a massive new health-care entitlement that will create hundreds of billions of dollars of new unfunded deficits and move us much closer to a government takeover of our health-care system.”

Mackey later said he was speaking for himself and not for his chain of stores, but the damage had been done. Whole Foods foodies went to the barricades, kind of. Customers pledged to stop shopping at the stores. They urged the TV show “Top Chef” to drop Whole Foods as a sponsor. And in typical 2009 fashion, they expressed their outrage on Facebook, creating a “Boycott Whole Foods” page, which has more than 32,000 members.

Read the full article here


Spingardens.com at The Urban Garden Project

Posted by vergelimbo On 11:28 PM

So, what is SPIN Gardening?

Small Plot Intensive Gardening is an innovative organic gardening technique designed to promote "small-plot farming" in urban areas by maximizing the yield and variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables. Spin gardeners can consume the fresh seasonal organic produce that they grow, or offer their goods for sale at the nearest Farmers' Market. (Find the nearest location here)

THE UNUSUAL SUSPECTS: Blue Beach Paste, Haley's Pink, Lemon Boy, Mr. Stripey, Cherokee Purple and Golden Girl tomatoes which I sold at a local Farmers' Market today

I have been SPIN gardening for the past 4 years at my Urban Garden Project. I "repurposed" roughly 1500 square feet of an abandoned side-lot adjoining my woodworking shop in Winston-Salem, NC. Divided into 10 raised beds, I grow 7 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, eggplant, 4 types of peppers, beans, zucchini, corn, cucumber, cantaloupe, watermelon, figs, kiwi, blackberries, raspberries, okra, chard, carrots, radish, beets, onions, garlic, salad, kale, sunflowers, basil, cilantro, mint, fennel, rosemary, rhubarb, parsley and a variety of flowering medicinal plants.


Urban Garden Project Recipe: True Peasant Pesto

Posted by vergelimbo On 9:56 PM

Roughly, To Taste and Texture, Combine:

Basil Leaves - 8 cups of leaves

Olive Oil - 1 half cup
Pine Nuts- 1 half cup
Garlic - 1 full bulb
Parmesan - 1 cup
Mint - 8 sprigs [leaves only]
Parsley - 4 sprigs
Anchovies - 1 small can
Nutmeg - 3 pinches
Balsamic Vinegar 2 Tbsps
Salt and Pepper

In a food processor, combine Olive Oil, Pine Nuts, Garlic, Anchovies
PULSE until coarsely chopped.
Gradually add Basil, Parsley, Mint until mixed [do not puree]
Add Parmesan, Nutmeg, Mint, Salt and Pepper

This once-secret recipe for "Urban Peasant Pesto" was passed to me by two men named John. The pesto is worth it's weight in gold. To make the 5.75 pounds of pesto pictured above I picked a well stuffed grocery bag of basil leaves from my Urban Garden Project. They have since grown back and I am almost ready to pick again. [See Photo]

Walnut Variation: Lately the price of Pinenuts (pignolias) has gone through the roof... Walnuts are a tastey and more affordable alternative. I actually prefer the "Walnut Variation". Also in lieu of olive oil try using walnut oil. Your palate will be pleasantly surprised, and your wallet will suffer less.

Share your favorite Garden Recipe or comment by clicking below

The Evolution of Food: From Mother Nature to the Mad Scientist... and back again?

Posted by vergelimbo On 1:52 PM

The history of humankind's relationship with food, both cultivation and consumption, is exceedingly complex and an interesting indicator of societal trends that go well beyond the kitchen table. One phenomenon that has caught our attention recently is the increased promotion of "natural", unadulterated products. This trend is a relatively new, and applauded, break from the recent past.

In the 1950s, mass-produced food came to dominate the American market and resulted in a marked reduction in the nutritional quality of the food that the typical person ate. Food was refined and enhanced and frozen, concepts that imply through the suggestive language of marketing promises of progress and scientific advancement.

Food that had once been local, fresh and seasonal was now being centralised, treated and produced on ever-increasing scales. Nutritional content was lost in the name of convenience, variety and cost-efficiency, impacting taste and dietary norms and expectations.

The next stage in the contemporary development of food can be seen (cynically?) as a superficial profit-driven reaction to consumer demand rather than a real desire for healthier products. The exact same foods that had just had its nutritional content stripped from it by the refining, freezing and other methods associated with mass production was now being enriched and fortified. A further step was added to the ever-lengthening conveyer-belt between the food source and the consumer, which involved artificially reintroducing vitamins and minerals, although in significantly diluted and altered amounts. These modified products are then hawked to the unsuspecting buyer based on the premise of their "superior" nutritional value. The food industry has developed sophisticated marketing strategies with the goal to capitalise on the perception of “progress” and its associated benefits. The American public has been educated to think that “new is improved”, a premise that it also applies to food. How could enriched and fortified wheat bread not be healthier than a loaf untouched by the miracles of science?

Like with almost all relationships, things tend not to remain static and the modern consumer has now entered what could be considered a more enlightened era. Of course, it will take time for this new approach to filter down to the average Joe or Jill, but there is certainly movement in that direction. After decades of tampering and "improving" our food, from the staples through to the luxuries, there is a move back to nature and the natural.

Perhaps it was the nation-wide food scares that brought to light the dangers of mono-farming and how one source can contaminate the food chain of the whole continent (e.g., salmonella from tomatoes, E. coli from spinach, even lethal dog food)? Or maybe it is the speculation that the hormones and anti-biotics in industrially-produced animal and dairy products are affecting the health and development of our children? Whatever the reason, there is a palpable and growing movement towards natural, locally-grown organic food that is becoming increasingly main-stream.

What does this tell us about our relationship with food and, perhaps, with the food industry and its regulators? First, there is an increasingly aware and educated consumer, although one that remains to a large degree at the mercy of the marketing machine (and lobbyists) of the food industry. This problem is compounded by the inconsistency and laxity of the bodies that should be enforcing clarity and nutritional awareness (e.g., FDA, USDA, EPA). Second, for many consumers there is more willingness to sacrifice efficiency, and even cost, in the name of better health and nutrition, although this trend is certainly at its earliest stages (education, education, education).

Finally, as the local and organic movements move out of the ashrams and communes and expand into suburbia and, eventually, to urban centres, there is more acceptance and demand for good, healthy, untreated local food. Not to be forgotten, our collective palates will also thank us for the change back to food as nature intended.


Urban Garden Project: July Update

Posted by vergelimbo On 8:11 PM

I took these photos of my Urban Garden project July 15th, 2009. This is the fourth season of the garden, and every year it grows bigger and better. I "repurposed" the lot adjoining my shop with the intention of beautifying the space, promoting urban gardening and ensuring a steady supply of delicious fresh fruit and veggies for me and my friends... "Mission Accomplished"

For Further Information: To Learn the Who, How, Why and Where about The Urban Garden Project check out these articles:

Locavores, Patio Gardens and Urban Gardening
Urban Gardening and the Habits of Locavores
Urban Garden Project: Winston-Salem, NC
Urban Garden Project: Composting in the City
Recession Gardening and the Micro CSA Project

In the beginning: After days of weeding, levelling and removing the gravel of the former driveway June 2006


Victory Garden Posters

Posted by vergelimbo On 10:39 PM

I love these World War II era Victory Gardens posters.

They represent the ideal convergence of patriotism and artistry. The Work Progress Administration (WPA) hired artists to design these posters to help promote self-sufficiency and co-operative ideals on the home front as a part of the war effort.

Victory Gardens "cropped up" all over the country. At their peak, it is estimated that almost 20,000,000 gardens were growing, and that about 40 percent of all vegetables produced in the U.S. came from Victory Gardens. By the end of the Second World War, the Department of Agriculture estimated total home front production of over one million tons of vegetables valued at 85 million dollars.

Which is your favorite poster? Tell me why below:

Urban Garden Project: June Update

Posted by vergelimbo On 2:20 PM

I should use "stop-action" photography to capture the insane growth occurring at my Urban Garden Project. I took these pics a week ago, and things have grown so much since. "How can this be possible?", you may ask. The simple answer is rain, then lots of sun, and love throughout (ie: weeding, trimming, staking, etc.)

Here are some close-ups of the veggies I have picked recently:

This week I will be training the watermelons down the driveway, mulching most of the garden with straw, and picking some tomatoes, onions, beans, blackberries, salad, and peppers.

Leave me a comment or question and I will get back to you!


Urban Garden Project: May Update

Posted by vergelimbo On 1:03 AM

The thundershowers this May have been unprecedented. I have barely needed to water my garden - which was good, because I had a friend visiting from Tel Aviv, and we took a roadtrip to Savannah. I also had an important design/build project with a serious deadline. As a result of this "other-prioritized" schedule, The Urban Garden Project was left in the moist, loving hands of Mother Nature.

My friends Ed and Hilary helped me plant a row of Blueberries in the new creekside bed, and transplant my fig tree, lavender, and mint in salvaged terracotta tubes from a dismantled furnace. Steve G helped me frame in 5 new raised-beds, and build the trellis for the Isaac Kiwi to ascend.

Did I mention the rain? Seemingly non-stop the past few weeks, my garden has reveled in the daily downpours. My heirloom tomatoes have already started to fruit, and my blackberry bushes - now 4 years old - seem intent on breaking some world records. Everything is growing beyond my expectations with the exception of the Baby Bok Choy which was ravaged by bugs unknown, and has been bolting continuously since they were planted - which is quite annoying and inexplicable.

I have been invited to sell my excess tomatoes, peppers, okra, beans, blackberries, basil and eggplant at a "farmers market" to be held Thursdays at the Krankies Airstream on Reynolda Road. I'm quite looking forward to this as The Urban Garden Project produces more than enough fresh veggies for me and all my friends. It also ties in nicely with my Urban Garden Network and Micro CSA idea. I hope all the regular coffee drinkers enjoy what is on offer at the farmer's market, and decide to go home and plant their own Whole Foods Killer Gardens.

Gardening is finally being seen as something cool to do!


Urban Garden Project: Seeds Strips

Posted by vergelimbo On 4:59 PM

Look closely and you can see the spacing of the seeds...
The latest addition to the ever growing list of "my inventions that other people actually brought to market" are the Ferry-Morse "Jiffy Strips" pictured above. The idea is simple: A strip of biodegradable paper with seeds appropriately spaced that you simply "plant" in an open furrow, and then bury. I tried out the "Nantes" carrots, and the Baby Belle radishes. Small seeds which require specific spacing are ideal for this system: Beets, turnips, leeks, onions, parsnips-essentially, any veggie that is row planted.

Isaac Kiwis Begin their Triffid-like Growth

I finally transplanted the Kiwi that my friend John had given me last year. They were on the verge of taking over my fire-escape garden. These Kiwi are Hillarian climbers, and arbor very nicely providing plenty of shade and a countless number of small, fuzz-less Kiwi that pack all the flavor of the store-bought variety, albeit on a lilliputian scale. I need to build my arbor ASAP.

Verge's improvements to the Jiffy Strips:

Rather than a dyed white tissue strip folded into a 5-inch packet, the strips should be made of a recycled paper/peat infused with organic fertilizer and nutrients. Seed Strips should also come in a roll, like scotch tape to minimize packaging...the current offering is un-necessarily over-packaged.


Recession Gardening and The Micro CSA Project

Posted by vergelimbo On 5:36 PM

There's money in them there vegetables!

Spring is right around the corner, and many a gardener's green thumb is twitching. I spent a sunny Saturday turning over one of my larger raised beds and uprooting last seasons spindley leafless tomato and pepper plants. I am always careful to shake the heavy-laden roots and capture as much of the soil as possible. The old saw: Waste not, want not fits gardening like glove.

Urban Garden Project Year 3: Oct 2008
When I started The Urban Garden Project 4 years ago, it was only in part for the financial benefit of growing my own favorite veggies. For the most part it was an expression of potential- to transform an unused piece of urban land into something useful and beautiful. It was also sort of a habit...gardening was just something that I did. My first summer job was building a new community garden near where I grew up. This process lasted over 4 summers from the age of 13-17. When it was completed it occupied 2 acres and 116 raised garden beds. Along the way I learned how to build a fence, lay patio stone walkways, build a deck and finally graduated to building a gazebo for the gardeners to enjoy. I have started my own garden in every place I have lived ever since then. Sometimes I was restricted to a mere fire-escape garden, but it is surprising how much a container garden can yield. Tomatoes and Peppers thrive in containers.

John's Garden is a recession-proof model of sustainabilty.

Since we are now in an economic recession (proving: you reap what you sow) more people have begun planting their own "kitchen gardens" and cutting down on their trips to Whole Paycheck. I was speaking to an old friend the other day who is anxious to start such a homestead garden. We discussed starting a network of small home gardeners that could share/swap/trade their individual yields. I already do this to a small degree with my gardener friends but look forward to the possibility of helping to expand this idea with some other interested parties. (Find more ideas on garden swaps and Micro-CSA see articles here and here)

If you are interested in the idea of starting a local network of organic gardeners leave me a comment below. I will follow up with an email in a few weeks time as the season is upon us. We can meet to compare notes and swap seeds, plans, ideas etc.