Monthly Archives: May 2017

Elsa Visits Sidwell Friends School

by Elsa Johnson

While in DC for the march for climate action I also visited the Sidwell Friends School, where my husband’s cousin, David Mog (an ex-Cleveland-ite), taught math for many years. Though now retired, he is still welcomed back at Sidwell Friends, and so I got a tour of the school complex. David had told me about the waste water recycling project that Sidwell Friend’s installed several years ago and which I’d expressed an interest in seeing up close and personal (well – not too).

It is a complex system in which the water from toilets flows first into a sort of settling tank where the solids settle out. Then the liquids flow into a series of three hillside, heavily planted leach beds. As it passes through the plants of each leach bed it gets progressively cleaner. Supposedly after flowing through the third leach bed, it is safe and clean and can be recirculated.  At Sidwell Friends it is reused again and again. By being circulated back to the toilets it proceeds thus in a continuous cycle. Impressive! There is really nothing to see – and definitely nothing to smell – except plants.

 

As part of the educational aspect a cylinder was installed at the top of the terraced slope that charts the flow of the water. This shows how the system works. Of course there is a good bit of unseen infrastructure of pipes, etc., in a basement which I did not visit. 

In the same location, at the bottom of the slope is a rainwater catchment pond that captures rainwater off of the roofs of several of the more recently constructed buildings surrounding the site.  The runoff rain water flows through a variety of runnels and tunnels, mostly aesthetic, and then flows into a catchment pond, which has fish. The day we were there I believe there was a problem with the filter and so the system was getting tweaked a bit by the firm that manages it.  There was a young (by my standards) man working in the water and David had a good talk with him while I wandered around taking pictures. 

The Sidwell Friends complex was also interesting for using its sloped site efficiently — putting playing fields, in one case, on top of a garage, and in another on top of the gymnasium.  

After the visit to Sidwell Friends Elsa and David drove past the Kushener/Trump home which is in the same neighborhood as the new Obama digs (a few short blocks from each other), which we also tried to drive past, but the access road was (is) blocked as Obama is still heavily guarded by security, for his own safety. We did a little DC tour and talked about what may be Elsa’s next DC sojourn in September, the Interfaith March. We shall see.     

GardenWalk South Euclid

As part of its summer long Centennial Celebration, the City of South Euclid will host GardenWalk South Euclid on Saturday, July 22nd, and Sunday, July 23rd, from 12 noon to 4:00 pm. It will serve as an annual legacy to the Centennial Celebration. The GardenWalk was co-founded by Northern Ohio Perennial Society members, Donna M. Zachary and Sue Gold, and the planning was started in the fall of 2015. Over 35 private gardens, three pocket parks (a Meditation Garden, a Tranquility garden and a Perennial Reflection Garden), a 21 acre nature preserve (hourly tours), 7 mile wetlands and over nine unique community gardens are on the GardenWalk. One community garden contains a bio-retention water basin and two are located in park settings. All can be explored during this “free, self-guided”, two day event. The city’s theme, “Come Together and Thrive,” can be seen in the many shops and restaurants along the garden route. After July 1st, the maps can be downloaded at www.cityofsoutheuclid.com or www.facebook/southeuclid.com. Maps will also be available at the South Euclid Community Center and the South Euclid-Lyndhurst Library after July 1st. During the GardenWalk, on July 22nd and 23rd, the maps, rest rooms, water and parking will be available at the Community Center at 1370 Victory Drive, South Euclid 44121 from 12 noon until 4:00 PM.

Gardenopolis Cleveland Goes to Washington D.C.

by Elsa Johnson and Catherine Feldman

Dear Gardenopolis readers,

We’ve missed a couple postings, and we apologize. We (the editorial board) confess to being political creatures for whom climate change is a very real and very present (as in right now!) issue, and the direction this president has chosen in response to this issue – i.e., to deny it, and wipe out the EPA – has had us (some of us more than others) spinning off in various activist directions ever since the inauguration. Most recently two of us (Catherine and Elsa) traveled to DC for the Climate Action March (where it was a hot! hot 91 degrees! – a record high for the month, and the month itself a record high for DC).

 

We joined the group, Elders for Climate Action for the march itself (200,000 people strong) and, briefly, for a conference at the Capitol the day before, at which Maryland representative to Congress, Jamie Raskin spoke. Someone who ‘gets it’. Several days later Catherine attend another conference ( Consultation on Conscience ) at which the young firebrand progressive Joe Kennedy III (grandson of Robert Kennedy) spoke — another person who gets it. These speakers gave us hope (alas, short lasting).

Yes, the march and those activist activities took priority, but while we were there at the Seat of Empire we also spent time doing the very Gardenopolisy thing of looking in on almost all the gardens attached to the various and many cultural institutions around the mall and taking lots of pictures…. and these pictures tell a story about how the focus of landscape in these important public spaces is now about gardening with native plants.

 

We can only applaud.  When Elsa was there in February for the Women’s March – 500,000 people strong – it seemed like every green space was being trampled, and it was hard to imagine anything withstood that trampling, but as you can see from our pictures, the landscapes look great.

One sometimes forgets the distances between the Capitol building at one end and the Lincoln Memorial at the other (yes, this 73 year old walked the entire distance – it felt like more than once). Just crossing the width of the Mall is a trek on a 91 degree day. The monumental scale is such that one could use a horse.

I (Catherine) bring two key points from my conference that are eminently applicable to Gardenopolis Cleveland. First, we were told over and over again by politicians and activists that the voices of citizens are heard by our elected officials in Washington. We were encouraged to speak out, especially in person. Attending town hall meetings and participating in marches does make a difference. Phoning, writing and signing petitions have an impact. We do not have to wait for our next opportunity to vote. Officials in D.C. are harried by the confusion caused by Trump and his administration. They need our support. When someone does something right, let them know. 

Secondly, we were encouraged to become active at the local and state level. We can fight for the environment here at home, relatively untouched by what is going on in D.C. and we need to do so. So, what can we do? Gardenopolis Cleveland would like to open that conversation. Please respond in the Comments section about what you are doing, what you would like to be doing, and any of your own organizations that need help.

 

 

My Wife No Longer Sneers at Fuki

By Tom Gibson 

My wife no longer sneers at fuki.  Fuki, also known as giant butterbur, is a vegetable, much prized by Japanese cooks in spring for its tender celery-like stalks.
The simplest way to cook them is to steam, lightly peel, and then stir fry them with sesame oil. For me a passable side dish; for my wife not at all!

That’s unfortunate since I like giving space to fuki in my permaculture garden: a) it grows in damp, dark shade—a rarity among edible perennials and b) its broad leaves are striking and attractive and add an equally rare aesthetic dimension to permaculture.

The lack of household interest in fuki had me contemplating possible replacements. But the gift of a new cookbook (from my wife, who hasn’t given up yet on me and my experiments) has changed my mind.  It’s Food From Your Forest Garden: How to Harvest, Cook, and Preserve Produce From Your Forest Garden, by the English Food Forest guru Martin Crawford and Caroline Aitken, who describes herself as an “eco-cook.” (https://www.amazon.com/Food-Your-Forest-Garden-Preserve/dp/0857841122

We’ve tried three recipes from the book for several perennial vegetables so far; all are uncomplicated and tasty to make. They are also often exceptionally creative.  Who, for example, would have thought of combining fuki, carrots and the juice and zest of an orange?  Cooked together until the mixture carmelizes, the combination leads to a subtle result that my wife states “is good enough to serve to company.”

We also liked Crawford and Aitken’s approach to fiddlehead ostrich ferns.

They fry them in a simple batter and dip them in a yogurt sauce with parsley (we substituted lovage), capers and lemon juice. Very satisfying.  The sweetness of the young fiddleheads comes through even set against the tangy sauce.

Finally, we tried Crawford and Aitken’s approach to ground nuts (apios americana, not to be confused with peanuts). 

On their own, ground nuts have an engaging potato-legume-like taste. But the tubers’ high density diminishes their appeal. Cooked plain groundnut slices have a hard time absorbing even the most basic complementary flavors (even salt!). And chewing on the slices can seem a little cardboard-y.  Crawford  and Aitken solve the problem by grating their groundnuts and combining them with sweet Bermuda onion, egg, and flour. The result is a juicy, crunchy groundnut “burger.” Very, very good.

The book covers a wide range of perennial vegetables and fruit—nettles, skirret, quince, Turkish rocket, goji berries, etc. It thereby overcomes one of the key barriers to growing sustainable, earth-friendly edibles: their often total unfamiliarity. Why risk growing something when you may have to wait two to three years for harvestable crop without knowing if you’ll even like to eat what you grow?

The creative dishes presented by Crawford and Aitken still manage to fall within the taste-range of the normal Western diet.  Nothing strange! Food cowards need not be afraid!  The book is a worthy investment for any potential food forest gardener.