Category Archives: Neighbors

Little House in Blue Grass

Western Kentucky University

From our community house in Tucson, I traveled Interstate 40 from Arizona to Nashville, Tennessee. There I began a search for affordable housing with the purpose to be closer to family.

Nashville is undergoing an incredible transformation with as many as 80 people a day moving to the city. With the influx, landlords and homeowners are ramping up prices and winning at the game.

I literally drove 100 miles a day looking for housing from one side of Nashville to the other, later moving outward in concentric circles to find something in my price range and requirements for community spirit, health, and safety. A friend suggested I look at Bowling Green, Kentucky, about 50 minutes from downtown Nashville.

Old Towne Apartments

This weekend I moved into a beautiful apartment complex, and I am looking forward to learning more about my new hometown. I can walk on trails across the street and to the library around the corner. I added 235 square feet to have a small guest room. My Little House on Belmont furniture is just the right size, i.e. I need not add anything except an extra bed, someday.

Today, I began exploring at the Kentucky Museum on the campus of Western Kentucky University (WKU). There I was reminded that American communities are places of surprise, hidden gems, and histories of lesser and greater community character.

I learned that during the Civil War, Kentucky was a border state with both slave owners and abolitionists as well as those who advocated for gradual emancipation. The state was at war with itself. Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln, both Kentucky-born, grew into their political and social perspectives on slavery.

Autobiography of Josiah Hensen

I was so impressed with the stories about Joshia Hensen, who escaped slavery to Canada then turned around and risked his life over and over again to bring 200  former slaves to Canada via the Underground Railroad.

The Kentucky Museum showcases an assortment of Bowling Green notables. Exhibits tell the story of ties to South Korea and to Liberia through educators at the university which has an international education focus. A loved the story about Induk Pahk, a Korean- American writer who worked for years to replicate the Kentucky Berea College program. Her campaign – “Berea in Korea” – spanned 30 years of development. While reading about her, I met the Museum’s director, Brent Bjorkman, who explained the museum will soon add an exhibit about the Bosnian refugee resettlement in Bowling Green. Six thousand immigrants were resettled making up 10% of the small city’s population, and conferring a high Muslim population. A 2016 report by the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy shows the significant contribution resettled refugees confer to the state.

And, among Bowling Green notables, Duncan Hines’ rise to fame and fortune is an excellent exhibit that demonstrates an era of growing middle class wealth in America when families looked for yummy food, eating-out,  travel, and the invention of the living room in the out-of-doors (otherwise known as the backyard barbecue). Hines met these food and relaxation innovations with over 150 different products starting with guide books on great places to eat or stay, to producing everything from outdoor grills to great ice cream and his favored cake mixes! I am looking forward to attending Bowling Green’s next Duncan Hines Festival Day and getting my slice of the gigantic cake made each year in celebration of this hometown hero!

 

I finished the long morning’s exploration at Mariah’s with a bowl of hot chili and turkey club!  I think I am in love with Bowling Green and Kentucky already! And I haven’t even been to the Derby yet!

 

The Renewal of Spring

Bubble FishI made the decision to stay on in Little House on Belmont. My landlord will be replacing old windows with new, better insulated windows, and putting another roll of insulation under the house. Its part of our deal.

My energy bills were very high last year, even with keeping the temperature high in summer and low in winter, which I admit was uncomfortable and made me doubt whether I would stay beyond my lease agreement.

But, I am enamored with Little House and believe I can eventually make it comfortable and accommodating for my guests.

Hummingbird and ParsleyI have begun planting a new garden but still have parsley, red and blue kale, and all my herbs made it through except the basil. We had a very mild winter, to say the least.

img_overlay-tempThis morning McGuire’s held the 39th running of their St. Paddy’s day Prediction 5K run, with 11,000 runners dressed in green tutus and wild hats, and green on green garb. Bag pipes, and big men with harry legs in colorful skirts were part of my morning’s mix as I gardened in 70 degree weather.

Bird Bath and Eggs

 

A morning’s walk…

Blooming Camellias
Blooming Camellias

On a morning’s walk in Pensacola’s Old East Hill Neighborhood I found much to celebrate. Camellias are blooming on a vacant lot near the little House on Belmont Street. Camellias are an Asian plant by origin but came to the gulf coast in the 19th century. We are home to the oldest, camellia club in the U.S. I find it wonderful that my hometown has such a group of people who celebrate this great flower and have planted many varieties in our town.

Other images include historic homes, light in my house, and my winter garden. Historic homes line the streets in this neighborhood which is the first plait of homes in our old city by the sea.

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Historic home on Jackson Street
Historic home decked out for the holidays.
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Little House at Christmas, 72 degrees and sunny.
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My next door neighbor, YA YA, yard decorations. Enchanted!
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Red Kale, Collards, and Mustard Greens!
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Doors thrown open, light pouring in…I can never return to colder climes. I am in love with the gulf coast, ocean, and this little city.

Historic Places Near House on Belmont

House on Belmont Neigbhors 005 Just a few blocks from here, a historic landmark was preserved in the Crowne Plaza Pensacola Hotel. The historic L & N railroad passenger depot was restored; it is now the lobby, shops, meeting rooms, and lounge. The depot is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Its interior retains the elegance of its original artful designs and decor. Why is it that decades ago builders and designers made things to last, using not only the best materials, but the most beautiful. The elegance just makes you feel special.

House on Belmont Neigbhors 008The restoration included retaining pieces of the original furniture, lighting, and brass work. The roof, constructed from French clay tiles was reassembled piece by piece, after each tile had been removed, coded, cleaned, and then replaced in its original position. Click here for more information.

On the way to the Crowne Plaza Hotel I passed by homes on Belmont decorated for Memorial Day or just looking great as they are. Check out the vintage Ford Truck in the front.House on Belmont Neigbhors 001

 

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House on Belmont Neigbhors 004And, here is one of several home decor businesses that bring elegance to this Old North Hill Neighborhood.

The Gardening Bug Has Bit!

Two of my neighbors have put in gardens, with the cardboard layering method and their gardens look wonderful. After the rain, and the first real sun in days, I went for a bike ride. Here is action in the village houses downtown:

Skateboarding in historic village
Skateboarding in historic village

I biked home  meandering through the village and residential streets. Tried the St. Michael’s Cemetery but is was locked up. On the way home I stopped at Waterboyz, surfing, skateboarding, and lovely cafe, only to learn they just put in a garden to serve fresh vegetables and herbs to their customers.

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20150419_162815My own garden is doing well with the exception of my pepper plants upon which every slug in Pensacola dines in the moonlight, or storms as it may. I removed them all with a tong and put them in soapy water two nights in a row and I am about to ring them with plastic bottle sections to prevent their brazen theft of my peppers!

20150414_121429Here is a shot of the new Single Fin cafe at Waterboyz. I ate lunch there. It was an excellent vegetarian sandwich on grilled Panini. Delicious! Tuesday I’ll try breakfast. I am meeting with Sean to talk about writing grants to support some ideas he has about supporting youth in the community. Small business rocks because it can respond to community needs in ways big box stores cannot.

 

The Magic Soil under Our Feet

20150405_093252This photo is from my garden about a week ago. Everything is growing strongly.

Thursday night I began the first of four classes with Renee Perry and Tom Garner of East Hill Edible Gardening. The introduction was a surprise to me: Tom spent the better part of an hour describing the intricate structure of soil and all the new research about organisms from fungi to bacteria, to crustaceans and invertebrates, and how they work together to move macro and micro nutrients from the soil into the food we grow and eat. See the Department of Agriculture, Soil Biology Primer.

During class, Tom and Renee gave us places to further explore the wonders of healthy soil. One is Paul Stamets, a micologist whose TED Talk will illuminate how you think about microbes. He makes a strong case for the intelligence of nature.  Take time to watch this short presentation. I guarantee it will make you more grateful whenever you eat your next meal!

UPDATE: My bike evidently had lost a fly wheel and so I feel less guilty about improperly riding it. Today I rode to the West Florida Public Library downtown to find books to help with the new draft of a novel I am writing: Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath for character development, Starhawk’s Walking to Mercury for a model dystopia and use of correspondence for bridging time, and Stegner’s The Spectator Bird for dialogue. The main library had them all!

20150407_172942Came home to harvest greens and herbs for a big salad and later a stir fry with tempeh and ginger, miren, and sesame oil!

My neighbor Zach – bitten by the gardening bug – is also putting in a front yard garden. Christian’s example is spreading.

Found out that my neighbor Ya Ya is turning 73 on the 14th. Plan to surprise him with some garden plants, Yes, he too is putting in a “lasagna” garden.

Tucson Friends – I miss them and the glorious Sonoran Desert

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Mikaela Quinn and I at the Desert Museum. She is an artist and writer, who has published many fine newpapers including the Tucson Green Times for which I wrote a column.

20150323_111712Don and Annemie Baker, friends for a lifetime! We raised our children in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y. and then were reunited in Tucson when they retired to a beautiful home in the foothills of the Catalina Mountains.

Oscar and Madeline and Me

20150314_151049Betty Falter also from the Croton family, met me at the Tucson Book Fair for lunch and a quick catch up. She is a grandmother again today.

Madeline Kiser and Oscar Bieta, my soul sister and brother, with whom I share my love of the earth.

I stayed with Oscar and Madeline while attending the book fair and manuscript workshop; with Mikaela and Jim for a couple of days, then with Annemie and Don.

On my last day, Madeline rose at 4:30 am to put me on the plane. I was royally treated by all of them and felt so honored to be called their friend. What would life be without friends and family? A barren plain…. I miss that desert and all of my old friends. But, I am building a wonderful community of friends here in Pensacola. a small city on the Gulf with which I am falling in love, feeling the land under my feet, feeling the caring community, and the ocean power near by.

Permaculture as a way of doing everything

House on Belmont CabbagesTonight 350-Pensacola held a public lecture in the Transition Town series on permaculture with two certified permaculturists–Renee Perry and Tom Garner.  Permaculture they explained is not some woo-woo alternative practice but rather a practical way of doing…well, everything!

Bill Mollison, the founder of permaculture design, had learned over a long period that modern day farming and design principles were not permanent but unsustainable in the long run. The system he began to develop creates a permanent culture. It is sustainable.

Tom described the evolution of the discipline as a way of observing, and then designing natural systems that reduce work while accomplishing more. The example he gave was a gardener struggling with Japanese beetle infestation on grape vines. In the life cycle of the beetle, the larva drops to the ground as a caterpillar. The gardener draped the vines over the chicken yard so that the caterpillars dropped into the chicken enclosure and were promptly eaten, breaking the life cycle of the beetles. The grapes thrived and shaded the enclosure, while dropping their leaves in the winter when the chickens needed full sun. The gardener never had to worry about Japanese beetles and his chickens had a new food source. The vine did well fertilized by plenty of chicken droppings.

Permaculture is based on three principles: 1) Care of the Earth; 2) Care of People; 3) Return of the Surplus.

Observation is very important in this type of design–the solution is in the problem, as the example above demonstrates. Knowing how nature works is a key principle. **Think what this would mean if a whole city adopted the principles? How much time and money could we save and have fun doing it!

Renee described the benefits of growing your own food, making the case that, using permaculture, people will actually work less than going to the grocery store to buy food. She made the case for increased nutrition, and the action of soil microbes that have been shown to improve human thinking and overall health. Yes, there are Good Bacteria!  Tom and Renee’s backyard garden proves that people can raise most of their own food. They keep chickens and raise bees in addition to gardening. The neighbors do not mind and are thrilled to have a portion of the delicious harvest.

Permaculture is not anti-technology but rather wiser use of things on hand by redesigning elements to work with each other and thus augment outcomes. Both instructors talked about growing your own food as a direct way to sequester carbon out of the atmosphere by building up top soil. I will sign up for their April class on vegetable gardening. Meantime my garden looks very perky in its bed of hay and rich organic mulch.

new-house-004.jpgUp to 77 degrees in Pensacola today but a nice cool night. I have the front and back doors of the ole shot gun house open and there is a nice breeze flowing through the little House on Belmont Street. I am very happy here!