Archive for November, 2009

building raised beds

Before dad returns to Germany I use his help to build raised beds. All the materials are recycled and free. They are:

  • four reused pressure-treated 2 by 8 boards of 12 and 13 foot in length (free off craigslist)
  • several old and weathered beams of various size and length (found next to the curb)

Putting the frames together was easy. The harder part was leveling the ground and filling the beds. The excess top soil in my yard is sandy and full of stones but I hope mixing in enough horse poop will give decent soil. At the ranch where Karleen keeps her horse we load up my Vibe with as many buckets and boxes of horse manure as fit. After two trips (each time being literally “full of shit”) we have a solid 5 inch layer of poop. The rest gets filled with excess top soil. Next? Picking out the stones, covering the beds with straw, and planting a cover crop (Fava beans?) to prepare the soil for planting in spring.

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BART to Livermore EIR hearing 1/3

At the first of three environmental impact report (EIR) public hearing organized by BART a lot of people seemed afraid that a downtown station would change Livermore to the worse and increase crime. One teenage girl – clearly indoctrinated by mom – broke out in tears as she envisioned BART bringing muggers and rapists to Livermore.

Yet, a pure highway alignment along I-580 is something that i – and all urban planners and city officials i talked to – strongly dislike because it would mean to repeat the mistakes of (auto-centric) planning in the past. A BART station in downtown Livermore presents a unique opportunity to create a wonderful walkable community around downtown setting a textbook example for sustainable transit oriented planning in America. I already love what the City has done during the redevelopment efforts of the past few years that have converted downtown from a four-lane freeway to a welcoming and cute destination. But it is still a downtown on life-support. There is no sustainable traffic throughout the day to support the kind of business you expect to find in a healthy downtown: produce stalls, a delicatessen, a small grocery store, a bakery, a cheese store, or a butcher. Try to buy a carton of eggs or a loaf of bread in downtown. Impossible. Fortunately i got my three minutes of rallying support for a downtown Livermore station and my comments were picked up by reporters of the contra costa times, the independent news, and the pleasanton weekly.

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building a chicken coop from reused materials

I collected the following items for building a chicken tractor with a detachable chicken run:

  • a frame of a wooden coffee table (Karleen found it on the curb)
  • 20 recycled 5 foot 1×8 redwood boards (bought from a fencing company)
  • a stack of nail and screw prodded 2 by 4s (used to hold drywalls inside my garage)
  • the leftover semi-gloss latex paint (from painting my interior doors and windows)

The design of the tractor is determined by the coffee table that is the base of the chicken tractor. The size of the run is determined by the length of the 2 by 4s. Since dad is visiting I am taking a few days off work so we can build the coop together:

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craigslist treasures

Last night i picked up 4 wooden planks in san ramon that someone was giving away for free on craigslist. Eventually those will become the sides of my raised beds. To fit the 13 foot planks into my vibe I had to leave the back window open. I attached my headlamp in red-blinking-mode to the end of the planks because there was a 4 foot overhang. Fortunately it was late and there was little traffic on I-580. Craigslist is such an amazing resource for finding recycled materials.

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BART to Livermore workshop 1/3

The city of Livermore is holding three workshops to gather public input on the possible alignments and station combination for the BART extension. The first one was well attended and it seemed as if the audience’s opinion more or less converged on having two stations: One in downtown Livermore to serve the residents, to vitalize local businesses, and to spark sustainable transit-oriented development but with strict parking regulations to keep car commuter traffic out of downtown. The other one as far east as possible with ample amounts of parking to serve commuters from Mountain House, Tracy and beyond and ease congestion on I-580.

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baby chickens

The first real step towards urban farm life comes at the affordable price of $2.50 a chick at Alamo Hay and Grain. The four girls cheesecake, pumpkin (two rhode island reds), penguin, and omelet (two barred rocks) enjoy their new home: a light bulb heated cardboard box in the living room. Once they have eaten the entire 25 lb bag of chick feed they will be big enough to move into a chicken coop in the front yard. But wait … there is no coop yet.

(one week later: they are nearly double the size)

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sustainable decoration

Alden Lane nursery is giving away hundreds of sweet pie pumpkins. I load up the Vibe with tens of pumpkins and use them to decorate my house seasonally (hours before dad and Martina arrive). Eventually the decorations will all be eaten and any remains composted. We are talking pumkpin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, pumpkin curry, roasted pumpkin seeds, …

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