Do you play Jeopardy?

I’ll take Urban Renewal for 200, thanks Alex.

Answer: The world’s smallest urban park.

GreenEggs:  What is … Mill Ends Park?

YES!  On my cyber travels I happened upon one of the strangest things I’ve ever happened upon … in a gardening sense, that it.  The World’s Smallest Urban Park – can you believe it?  Mill Ends Park, a diminutive two-foot circle and only just big enough for one plant, sits in the middle of a median strip on what is now SW Naito Parkway, in Portland, Oregon.    It also happens to be home to the only leprechaun colony west of Ireland, although that point seems overlooked by the Guiness Book of Records.  Can’t imagine such a place?  Here’s a picture.

Mill Ends Park, Portland OR.  The smallest park in the world and home to the only leprechaun colony West of Ireland.

Mill Ends Park, Portland OR.

The story goes that in 1948 the site was prepared for a light pole to be installed on busy SW Front Avenue.  Time passed and the lightpole never arrived, yet weeds and nasties sprung up as they do when a plot of ground is left unattended.  Dick Fagan, a columnist with the Oregon Journal planted some flowers on the site, declared it a park and named it after his column in the paper, Mill Ends.  The park was officially dedicated on St Patrick’s Day, 1948, as “the only leprechaun colony west of Ireland”, according to Fagan.

From Wikipedia:

Legend

Fagan told the story of the park’s origin: He looked out the window and spotted a leprechaun digging in the hole. He ran down and grabbed the leprechaun, which meant that he had earned a wish. Fagan said he wished for a park of his own; but since he had not specified the size of the park in his wish, the leprechaun gave him the hole.[4] Over the next two decades, Fagan often featured the park and its head leprechaun in his whimsical column. Fagan claimed to be the only person who could see the head leprechaun, Patrick O’Toole.[3]

Fagan published a threat by O’Toole about the 11 o’clock curfew set on all city parks. O’Toole dared the mayor to try to evict him and his followers from Mill Ends, and threatened a leprechaun curse on him should he attempt to do so. Subsequently, no legal action was taken, and the leprechauns were allowed to stay in the park after hours.[5]

Evolution

Fagan died of cancer in 1969, but the park lives on, cared for by others. It was named an official city park in 1976.[2]

The small circle has featured many unusual items through the decades, including a swimming pool for butterflies—complete with diving board, a horseshoe, a fragment of the Journal building, and a miniature Ferris wheel which was delivered by a full size crane. On St. Patrick’s Day, 2001, the park was visited by a tiny leprechaun leaning against his pot of gold and children’s drawings of four-leaf clovers and leprechauns.[2] The park continues to be the site of St. Patrick’s Day festivities. The events held here include concerts by Clan Macleay Pipe Band, picnics, and rose plantings by the Junior Rose Festival Court.[3]

Mill Ends Park in 2004 before remodeling.

Mill Ends Park in 2004 before remodeling.

I love the absurdity, I love the leprechauns and I love the teeny tiny park!  But it is not all roses and hollyhocks though.  There is a contender for the title of World’s Smallest Urban Park and they are not going down without a fight!  Prince’s Park in the Staffordshire town of Burntwood, UK is challenging Mill Ends Park in the teeny tiny park stakes, claiming that Mill Ends isn’t really even a park to start with!  Prince’s Park is a full 15’x30′ in size and boasts home to the first and only World’s Shortest Fun Run, a full 55 strides around.

Not far to go now!

Not far to go now!

In 2003, nearly 400 people showed up to race around Prince’s Park completing the race in just 7 seconds flat!  Awesome!

So, which do you think has the best ‘small park spirit’?  Are you Team Portland or Team UK?  I can’t get past the cute factor of Mill Ends Park but the World’s Shortest Fun Run at Prince’s Park is a really fabulous community event.  I’m torn but leaning towards Team UK.  You?

Urban Foraging

It’s funny the way some things happen, isn’t it?

I came across a post in my recent cyber travels about a fellow Charlottean, Mike Orell, who is (apparently) wild about the amazing tree canopy that we have here in The Queen City.  In case you didn’t know, Charlotte is known for having one of the finest urban forests in America and it is one of our most recognized and treasured natural resources.

The Charlotte Skyline. See all the trees? Amazing for a city of about 1 million people, right?

I have to admit that I love the trees, too.  One of my favourite things about Charlotte is the abundance of green and the trees are definitely a big part of that.  Sadly, our urban forest is old, fragile and depleted and is at risk of being irrepairably lost if action is not taking to better preserve it.  Fortunately in 2010, our city council recognised the canopy’s importance and launched a bold public/private collaborative, TreesCharlotte, whose task was to assess the condition of the canopy, support and protect the existing trees, and set a goal of planting over 500,000 trees over the coming decades.  It is largely volunteer driven and has been very successful to date.  A truly wonderful community project with a lasting legacy. Trees are important.  Trees are beautiful.  And they increase our land values.

Typical tree lined suburban Charlotte street.  Gorgeous, right?

Typical tree lined suburban Charlotte street. Gorgeous, right?

Anyway, I came across this post, via Trees Charlotte, written by Mike that talks about Urban Foraging.  Have you heard about Urban Foraging?  That is, going out into our public urban environments to find, harvest, and eat fruits (or veges or whatever) that are publicly available, are ripe, and would ordinarily rot on the vine and go to waste if folks weren’t out there collecting them.  What a notion.  Mike talks about the different fruit trees that he’s noticed around his/my areas, when they are fruiting and how often he beats the critters to the bounty 🙂

And then I realised that *I* am an Urban Forager, too.  Well, in that there is this amazingly enormous fig tree along one of my running routes that is simply ladened with fruit in the Autumn, and that I have been known to slow and enjoy a fresh sweet fig or two from its offerings as I pass.  My running buddies think I’m mad.  I’m ok with that.

And then I thought of the people I see walking along the walking paths in Florida carrying the fresh coconuts home that had fallen the night before.  And I realised that *they* are Urban Foragers, too.

Florida coconuts

Florida coconuts

And I remembered the NPR segment I heard months ago about a global (global!) online project called Falling Fruit that crowd sources locations of publicly available fruits and maps them, so you can go and be an Urban Forager in your own piece of the world.  Amazing!

And then my friend, Sarhn at GreenerMe, posted just yesterday about her adventures collecting wild Slippery Jack mushrooms.  Turns out that she’s an Urban Forager, too!  And I remember going ‘mushrooming’ after a rainfall in the Autumn months as a child so I guess I’ve been doing it for a long time, afterall.

It is just all around me right now.  Funny how sometimes things like that happen, right?  All at once?

But what does all that meeaaaannn???  I dunno.  But I like the advice Mike gives: To “pick your head up and start to really see what’s around you”.  Good advice for life, really.

Are there any other Urban Foragers out there?  Perhaps you are an UF and just never knew it (like me)?

Poppies Poppies Everywhere – ANZAC Day 2015

The 5000 Poppies Project is Complete!

You may remember I crocheted a red poppy in memory of my Great Grandfather, to donate to the 5000 Poppies Project for the 100th anniversary of the ANZAC Day landings in WWI.  I blogged about it here.

Poppy for ANZAC Day

Poppy for ANZAC Day

My little poppy winged its way to Melbourne months ago and was incorporated into the art piece known as 5000 Poppies, now installed at Melbourne’s Federation Square.   When the organisers originally started this project 2 years ago they were hoping to collect 5000 Poppies to display, thinking that was a super ambitious number.  Guess how many poppies it takes to produce a result like this?

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5000 Poppies at Federation Square, Melbourne

By the end they had received over 250,000 (!!) handmade poppies created by over 30,000 individuals from all over the world!  An extraordinary example of community organising that has beautifully found the sweet spot between the emotional, remembering the fallen and those who have served – and the practical, that knitting and crocheting poppies is easy enough for just about anyone to do so participation was easy and high.  It turns out that 250,000 handmade poppies creates over 800 square metres (that’s over 8600 sq ft, for those who still use the old money) of poppies!  A true ‘Field of Poppies’, which was, after all, the actual point of the exercise.  Many have dedications attached to them.  I wish I had thought to do that.

I particularly love this amazing sculpture created by a local, Melbournian metal fabrication plant, Uniweld Engineering, under the direction of artist Adrian Egglestone: entitled GRATITUDE.  Stunning.

Gorgeous sculpture by Adrian Egglestone entitled: Gratitude

Gorgeous sculpture by Adrian Egglestone entitled: GRATITUDE

GRATITUDE

GRATITUDE

I don’t know why but I can’t get the video feed to link right now.  To see some video footage to get a true appreciation of the scale click here for link to SBS News’ footage.  And here for some newspaper coverage.

5000 Poppies will be on display in Federation Square, Melbourne, from Thursday April 23 – Sunday April 26 after which it is starting a national tour around the country.

So glad I could participate in such an extraordinary event.

Happy ANZAC Day.

Lest we forget.

How To Build a Portable, Collapsible Chicken Tractor

We have two chickens, Charlotte and Sophia, who live in a sweet coop.

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Our sweet coop

Cluckingham Palace

Cluckingham Palace

The footprint of the coop is 8’x4′ which gives them a run space of 32 sq ft which is enough for two chickens to share, but even this cold heart thinks the girls would appreciate a day out and a change of scenery on occasion.  Trouble is that we do not have a fenced yard so I really needed to make a day-tractor of sorts for them, something light weight and adjustable to suit our needs.  Ideally, it would be something that could be stored easily when not in use, something I could put over my vege garden to have the girls work that from time to time yet spacious enough to be worth the effort.  I’ve also been asked, recently, to bring the girls to some local preschools and elementary schools as part of their Farm Animal Week as an educational display, to talk about how we take care of the chickens and show the city kids a real live chicken and I was thinking it would be handy to have a something that could hold them for looking at but would lay flat to fit in my minivan to transport.  Hmmm, seemed quite a lot of requirements and a tall order to fill. I searched online until I came across this little beauty:

Collapsible chicken run - inspiration.  Source:Craftlog http://craftlog.org/craftlog/?p=4175

Collapsible chicken run – inspiration. Source:Craftlog

Eureka!  This will be perfect.  It is adjustable to fit over my skinny (just 2′ wide) vege garden, yet can expand to … whatever width the A-frame will allow, say 5′, AND fold up for easy, flat storage when not in use.  And it looked easy enough to build.  Of course, there will be less-than-zero predator protection with this, probably as close to free-ranging (and subsequent security issues) without actually free-ranging as I can get, so it must only be used under supervision.  I thought I’d give it a go.  Here’s what I did.

How to Build a Portable, Collapsible Chicken Run What you need:

  • (7) 1″x3″x8′ pine furring strips (for extra light weight)
  • 16′ length of 48″ hardware cloth, chicken wire, plastic utility fencing for the outside of the big panels
  • 8′ length of 48″ plastic utility fencing for the end caps (needs to be flexible so it will fold up)
  • 3 hinges for the top
  • screws to screw it all together
  • L-brackets to reinforce the sides if needed (I needed these as the wood is so flimsy)
  • U-pins or staples to staple the hardware cloth to the wood
  • paint to better weatherproof it and make it look pretty
  • 10’+ length of utility fencing
  • taples to affix the utility fencing
  • an afternoon

Directions:

Hint #1: Make sure you look for very straight pieces of the furring strips when buying your lumber.  They are hard to find and you might need to ask the guys to cut a new bundle or two open so you can find straight pieces.  Don’t be shy – do it and find the straightest pieces you can.

Step 1.
Cut 3 of the furring strips in half to give you (6) 4′ lengths.  I had the guys at Lowes do this for me.

Step 2.
Join the long 8′ lengths of wood to the shorter 4′ lengths of wood to make 2 big 8’x4′ rectangles with supports in the middle at the 4′ mark.  I used the Kreg Jig to make it easy to join the wood. You do have to fill the holes with wood filler and paint but I’m ok with that as I find these joins easier that trying to toe in the screw by myself.

I used the Kreg Jig to make it easy to join the wood.  You do have to fill the holes with wood filler and paint but I'm ok with that as I find these joins easier that trying to toe in the screw.

Making the joins with the Kreg Jig

Step 3.
Paint all the wood with exterior grade paint.  The panels will look like this when done. (Check out my easy Paint with a Sock painting technique to save yourself some grief during this part)

One of the two painted panels.

One of the two painted panels.

Hint #2: Check out the ‘Oops Section’ for cheap paint options while at Lowes.  The only exterior paint I had lying around the house was the cream colour I’d used on the coop and I wanted this to blend in better with the environment.  Lowes happened to have a small tin of exterior green paint for just $2.50 instead of the $18.00 it would have ordinarily cost.  Score!

Step 4.
Reinforce the corners with brackets if necessary.

Step 5.
Staple or use the U-pins to attached the hardware cloth/utility wire to the rectangular panels.

Step 6.
Join the two big rectangles at the top with the hinges.  Best to attach the hinges on the inside of the panels so the hinges will close properly and lie flat.

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Attaching hinges

Hinges and reinforcing brackets attached.

Hinges and reinforcing brackets attached.

Right now your project will look like this:

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You can fold it up.

You can lay it out flat.

You can lay it out flat.

You can stand it up to make a chicken tractor out of it. I like that the width is variable depending on my need.

You can stand it up to make a chicken tractor out of it. I like that the width is variable depending on my need.

Step 7.
Staple the utility fencing to one edge of the run.  The width of the fencing will need to be adjustable depending on how wide you make the footprint of the run so make sure you cut it with extra length.  It also makes an easy ‘access door’.

Here is the 'access door', with Sophia timidly entering the run for the first time.

Here is the ‘access door’, with Sophia timidly entering the run for the first time.

Right now I have used twist wire threaded through the hardware cloth to ‘close’ the ends of the ‘doors’ but I’m looking for a better solution.  Maybe some cuphooks screwed in the the wood on the side around which the utility fencing could be stretched?  For right now, wire it is.  I do make sure I pull the bottom quite taught so that the chickens can’t wriggle underneath.  So far, so good.

Completed run with utility fencing affixed

Completed run with utility fencing affixed.  Also positioned with a narrow footprint, perfect for setting over my narrow vege garden rows.

Adjusted to have a wider footprint.

Adjusted to have a wider footprint.

You’re Finished!
Voila!  An awesome, portable, collapsible, adjustable chicken day run that seems to be working nicely for my girls.

Charlotte and Sophia enjoying a day out in the garden in their new day pen.

Charlotte and Sophia enjoying a day out in the garden in their new day pen.

One thing to remember is that since I have used flexible utility fencing it is not predator-proof and the girls needs to be supervised(ish) whilst they are in it.  We don’t have fences so my main concern would be for the random neighbourhood dog who might wander in to my yard and get excited to see the chickens.  I would definitely not feel good leaving the house with them in the day tractor.

The whole project was easy to build and cost about $70 total, so super affordable.  I love that it can be folded flat for easy storage (probably affixed to the garage wall somehow with hooks to get it up off the ground) and that it is really really light so I can easily move it around by myself.  It will also fit in the back of my minivan should I want to take the girls to an elementary school for show-and-tell.  Very happy with this project.  Yay!

Regular chicken coop in the foreground with the new day pen blending in to the mid-ground.  Very pastoral over at my house.

Regular chicken coop in the foreground with the new day pen blending in to the mid-ground. Very pastoral over at my house.

Anyone else looking for a day-tractor for their chickens?  Let me know if you like this idea and try it yourself.  Would love to see how other’s modify these plans to their own needs.

An Artist Must Suffer for their Art. That’s Why it’s Called ‘Pain’-ting (ugh)

How to take the Pain out of Painting

So, I am working on a post about building a little sumpin’-sumpin’ for the garden/girls that isn’t quite finished (stay tuned for that).  But as I was going about my building business I was up to my least favourite part of any build, the painting portion, and I thought to pass on a few tips I’ve found helpful.

Tip #1: Use an old running sock (one that has lost its mate) to do the painting.
I swear, this is such a great tip.  Put an old rubber glove on, then put the inside-out sock on over the top.  Use the sock as your brush to dip and swipe along the wood.  It makes it soooo easy to get in the all the fiddly corners and it makes it go so fast!  I love love love this idea.  Of course, don’t do this if the final finish is super important but for an application like mine (a garden objet d’art) it was perfect.  I swear, I don’t think I’ll ever use a paintbrush again if I can help it.

Using an old mate-less sock for the painting.  I swear, I will never paint using a paint brush again - so easy and fast!

Using an old mate-less sock for the painting.

Tip #2: Upcycle a milk jug to use as a paint holder.
Guys, I’m telling you, this tip made all the difference to whether this was going to be a super-drag-chore or just a regular-type chore.  Since my rather large project was in two locations, being able to pick up my paint holder by the handle and move around the wooden frame while holding the paint (not having to go back and forth to a stationary can) and then just moving organically to the next frame made things go much more quickly and smoothly.  Brilliant!

All I did was take an old milk jug and draw a line with a sharpie to cut off the spout and make a neck wide enough to get my hand in and out while maintaining the handle.  Then I used a stanley knife to cut it out.  Easy!

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So, dear readers, go forth and create!  My hopes are that with these tips there will be less ‘pain’ in your painting (ba-dum bum).

You’re welcome 🙂

Thinning the Herd

Do you have trouble pulling out plants that haven’t exactly died but aren’t really living up to their expectations either?  The ones that just struggle and struggle, are plain grumpy and don’t do what they’re supposed to?  I do.  I know they either have to be moved or they have to go to the big garden in the sky but it is always so hard for me to make the call (what is that about???)  Take these winter daphne for example.  I have two of them, one of each side of our front walk.  Here they sulk 😦

image image

Awful, aren’t they?  They are supposed to be blooming and amazing right now and just look at them.  Hurumph!  They’ve been in the ground in this site for 5 or 6 years and they just have never done well.  They bloom a little … but not much.

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They’ve grown a little … but not much.  They’re one of the first things people see when they walk up my front walk and they are thoroughly disappointing.  I’ve been looking at these things sideways for the last year or two thinking they had to go but … like I say, I have trouble pulling the plug.  I paid good money for these things, you know?  Maybe if I give them another year … Maybe a little more TLC …

This year I finally did it.  I ripped those ugly things up and tossed them away.  I don’t have another good spot for them and truly, I have so few sunny spots in my garden that plants need to earn their place and these things just weren’t cutting it!  I have to tell you, it was kinda cathartic.  Out with the old, in with the new.

My neighbour across the road has the most spectacular Endless Summer hydrangeas along his front walk which is really what I long for but I just don’t have the space here for something that wants to grow 5′ tall.  Booo.  I took a trip to my favourite garden center and came upon Mini Penny French hydrangeas that I thought might work instead.

Mini Penny Hydrangea Source: hydrangea.com

Mini Penny Hydrangea Source: hydrangea.com

So gorgeous, right?  They grow to between 3 and 4 feet tall so small enough for the space and I think there is enough sun/shade mix to keep them happy.  I have drip irrigation set up so they’ll have plenty of water which is the main challenge with hydrangeas … I thought to give it a go.

So here they are on planting day.  They aren’t much to look at, I’ll admit, but my hope is that they will be happy here and come the summer they will be gorgeous.  And let’s face it.  If they’ve not gorgeous then they’ll have to go the same way as my tragic winter daphne – Muwahahaaaa!

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Newly planted Mini Penny Hydrangea.  Grow, baby, grow!

Newly planted Mini Penny Hydrangea. Grow, baby, grow!

How do you handle plants that aren’t doing as they are told?  Are you ruthless and rip them right out or do you struggle?  Perhaps there is a 12 step program for me.  Clearly, I need help (sigh).

… And in Between, We Garden

Such an awesome weekend!

I cleaned out the chicken coop –

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Here you can see the roost bar and the piece of wood that holds the Sweet PDZ in place removed for easy cleaning.

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All clean. Now for some fresh lavender and Rosemary as the finishing touch.

Admired some pretty flowers that are blooming right now –

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Love these grape hyacinths. Maybe almost as much as this guy does.

Here’s a busy little bee making the most of the grape hyacinths.  They are the first flowers to bloom in abundance in my garden each spring and are always such a welcome burst of lovely sweet colour.  J’adore grape hyacinths, don’t you?

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Pretty camellia bloom.

I’ve not grown camellias before – these are my first and newly planted this past autumn.  I planted them to provide some screening from our neighbours although it will take some 20 years for them to grow to a useful size to fill that role.  Until then I will enjoy their spring blooms – and think of planting more.

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Pretty camellia bloom

And swooned as the heavenly scent of the lemon blossoms wafted across the whole yard.  Right now the lemon and lime trees are spending their days outside enjoying the dozey bumblebees and the warm sunshine, and then they go back inside when nighttime temps dip too low.  The weatherman is predicting a hard freeze later this week so I’ll be doing this citrus dance for another few days at least before I can move them out for the summer.

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There’s a lime tree to go along with this Meyer Lemon, too.

I also threw Holly Tone around everything and now the whole place reeks – ugh!  The forecast is for rain tonight and tomorrow morning so my hope is that it will all be washed in and away in a day or so.  I feel totally accomplished.  Vitamin G really does a lot of good for the soul, don’t you think?

We come from the earth
We return to the earth
And in between, we garden.
– Anonymous