Archive | Community RSS feed for this section

Food in the City and Subirrigation

24 Feb

I was recently invited by Shaunalynn of sprout & co to speak at the Food in the City Spaghetti Dinner about my experience with subirrigated gardening.  Subirrigated gardening is a way of growing plants that conserves water, preserves fertilizer, and simplifies watering.  I regularly consult the Inside Urban Green blog for information on subirrigation which is authored by Bob Hyland, founder of the Center for Urban Greenscaping and the definitive subirrigation guru.  Other topics for the evening included raising chickens, Sam Katz-Christy on his Somerville yogurt co-op, Tai Dinnan from Groundwork Somerville on maple tree tapping and syrup making, and Mike Nagle on window farming in urban areas.  Live illustrations were created by Isaac Bell during the talks which reflected the topics at hand.

I’ve been interested in making my own yogurt for some time now and learned a lot about the process as Sam fielded an array of questions from the crowd.  The co-op operates from the industrial kitchen of the Clarendon Hill Presbyterian Church and sources milk regionally from Crescent Ridge Dairy. Crescent Ridge Dairy delivers in glass containers which helps reduce plastic waste when making yogurt in large batches;  Sam’s simultaneous consideration for the environment and community was inspiring.

Sam Katz-Christy fields questions about yogurt making and running a co-op.  Photo by Meaghan Boyle.

Sam Katz-Christy fields questions about yogurt making and running a co-op. Photo by Meaghan Boyle.

My talk reviewed the principles of subirrigation including 2-liter soda bottle designs and larger planter designs based on corrugated drain pipe which are more suitable for growing vegetables.  The planter below was built from a 3-liter bottle and housed a couple of happy basil plants.  Herbs do very well in these 2 and 3 liter designs.

A 3-Liter planter that I built to grow basil.  Photo by Meaghan Boyle.

A 3-Liter planter that I built to grow basil. Photo by Meaghan Boyle.

For growing tomatoes and peppers, the corrugated pipe planter designs are the easiest and most reliable to build.  Below is a section of the corrugated and perforated pipe cut to fit in the bottom of the clear container shown to the right of me.  I would use this planter to grow one tomato plant or two pepper plants.  Clear containers allow you to observe water levels without detriment to the plant.

Showing off corrugated and perforated drain pipe for building planters.  Photo by Meaghan Boyle.

Showing off corrugated and perforated drain pipe for building planters. Photo by Meaghan Boyle.

There was a great turnout for the talks.  The picture below by Chris Connors shows a small fragment of the assembled crowd;  I really enjoy hanging out after talks at hackerspaces to meet new people with similar interests.

The crowd at Sprout as well as live artwork being projected behind me.  Photo by Chris Connors.

The crowd at Sprout as well as live artwork being projected behind me. Photo by Chris Connors.

I am working on finishing a Make Project page which will include details on fertilizer, pesticide, and other concerns.  For more information on subirrigation I highly recommend the Inside Urban Green Blog as well as the EarthBox Forum.  Now is the time to order and start your tomato seeds for the upcoming season!

If you’d like to stay in touch with sub-irrigators in Somerville, MA and Boston, join the Sub-irrigate Sprout google group.

Advertisements

Dorkbot Boston and Lawrence Lessig on Institutional Corruption

8 Feb

Tonight I attended the first Dorkbot Boston meetup of 2011 hosted at Sprout in Somerville, MA.  Dorkbot is a monthly meeting of artists, designers, engineers, students, scientists, and other interested parties that is free and open to the public (check to see if there are local Dorkbot meetups near you) .  Tonight’s meetup, the first in a while, was a resounding success with roughly 30 people facing icy winds to attend.  A featured guest was Brian Whitman who spoke on the evolution of Dorkbot and his company, The Echo Nest.  The evening was hosted by Adam Hasler who has recently taken over as the Boston organizer.

Adam Hasler hosted Dorkbot Boston at Sprout

Adam Hasler hosting Dorkbot Boston at Sprout

For those who are unfamiliar with Dorkbot, one of the cooler aspects for me is Open Dork where anyone is encouraged to speak about a current project for a short time.  This encourages collaboration and community building in a very small amount of time.  For example, I learned about the New England Model Engineering Society in Waltham, a new hackerspace in Lowell called MakeItLabs (they will soon have a lasercutter), and had a chance to meet several local and visiting geeks (from as far as Portland, OR).

Open Dork allows anyone to present current projects and upcoming events

Open Dork allows anyone to present current projects and upcoming events

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending a talk by Lawrence Lessig on Institutional Corruption, a core topic studied by The Lab at Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics.  The talk focused on the institutional corruption of congress and lobbying.

Lawrence Lessig presents on Institutional Corruption

Lawrence Lessig fields questions regarding his Institutional Corruption presentation

You can view the same Institutional Corruption – Short Version presentation online.

Mechanical and Kinetic Sculpture at Sprout

3 Feb

Tonight I visited Sprout in Somerville, MA for the Mechanical and Kinetic Sculpture meeting with Julian Gomes.   Also in attendance was Mike Beach who runs a Mechanics Steampunks Engineers Tinkers class, Joey Tochka, another Mike, and Jon Rosenfeld who helped tune and demo the lathe and mini mill at sprout.  Check out The Mechanical and Kinetic Sculpture wiki.

Trying to cut a steel bike frame on the lathe.  We lacked the proper cutting fluid to get it cutting smoothly.

Trying to cut a steel bike frame on the lathe. We lacked the proper cutting fluid to get it cutting smoothly.

Once tuned, we used the mill to create slots in aluminum.  Slotted aluminum happens to be perfect for creating a sliding tripod used in stereo photography.  I will likely be making a custom rig for my camera in the next few days to improve the quality of my anaglyph photos.  Here’s the mill in action after a tune-up:

I also recently ordered a laptop which already has me thinking about what design I will vinyl cut for the top.  This is what I’m thinking so far:

Blender screenshot showing bezier curve design

Blender screenshot showing bezier curve design

Using the Export Curve to Svg Path script for blender, I created the following design in inkscape which is almost ready to be cut on a vinyl cutter.

Vector design derived from blender file.  Made in inkscape.

Vector design derived from blender file. Made in inkscape.

Download the flower of life laptop skin svg file; I released the inkscape file into the public domain at openclipart.org.  You can scale the svg and vinyl cut it to fit your laptop for free — this is for a wide-format laptop.