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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

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Adopting a Roundabout – Part 2

Our Roundabout in March 2009

Orphan Roundabout, March 2009

 

Back in February (was it that long ago?!), I wrote about our Sustainable Capitol Hill gardening plan.  One part of that plan is to adopt a neglected roundabout in our neighborhood.  It’s symbolic more than anything:  it helps beautify the neighborhood, inspires people to garden, and it is a bit of advertising for us as a group, so we can get more people involved in what we’re doing.

 

At the end of March, I wrote about our tour of neighborhood roundabouts to find an “orphan” to adopt.

 

After our tour, we inquired about four roundabouts (also known as “traffic circles) at the city’s Department of Transportation.  And a wonderful thing happened!  The woman from the city called the four people registered to take care of each of these roundabouts.  Two of them called back and said, “no, don’t give it away!” and proceeded to work on them immediately.  Our call inspired them to take action, and those two roundabouts are now thriving!

 

Of the two that were still available, we decided to “beta test” one, to make sure we had the time and resources to adopt it effectively.  As an aside, I will say that a project like this, though small, takes three busy people to make happen (or one less-busy person).  Fortunately, three of us stepped up to the plate to organize this at one point or another, and we made it happen.

 

So on Memorial Day, five of us met at 9:30 am to plant the circle!

 

At our Family Allotment, you may remember that my mother and I have been slowly replacing ornamentals with edible food plants.  Well, we’ve been setting aside several of the more drought-resistant plants for the roundabout.  So my job was to bring the plants.  Guillaume’s job was to bring the compost.  With tools we all brought from home, Alexis, Anne, Ariel, Guillaume, and I set to work!

 

Weeding the Roundabout

Weeding the Roundabout (photo taken from my phone’s camera)

 

We knocked on a neighbor’s door and asked to borrow his hose.  He was more than happy with what we were doing, and helped us stretch it down to the street, where we used a bucket to carry it across to the roundabout.

 

After several months of neglect, our roundabout was absolutely COVERED with weeds.  As we started in on the weeds, a family drove past and stopped, rolling down their window:  “We just wanted to say, thank you for what you’re doing,” they said.

 

Pretty soon, another driver did the same.  Then a bicyclist.  Then two passers-by stopped to watch.  One even took pictures.  As we progressed, more and more people stopped to say thank you.  It was incredible.  In the two hours we were there, at least 20 people thanked us for what we were doing.

 

And a woman bicycling by stopped and asked if we’d like some of her irises.  She’ll be bringing 3 types of irises from her garden in the next few days!  She also said she’d also help keep an eye on the watering and such, since she bicycles past every day.


Here’s what our roundabout looks like now:


Our Roundabout in May 2009

Adopted Roundabout, May 2009


Even the finches and pigeons are happy with it.  And with the irises coming, and some donations from our local nursery, we’ll be adding some nice color soon. 

 

What a fun way to bring the community together.

 

A Wonderful Spring Surprsie!

It has been nearly a year now since we moved to Seattle – my how time flies!  Well, I was sure this would not happen until at least next year, but I have come upon a wonderful surprise….

 

My Little P-Patch Plot

Our New Plot

 

We have a community garden plot!!  One became available at the last minute, and I jumped at the opportunity.  It’s not at any of the three gardens for which I’m wait listed, so it’s a bit further from our home – over a mile away.  But it’s ours, and it’s ready to be weeded and planted.  So exciting!

 

On a beautiful sunny day yesterday, I walked to meet the garden coordinator and to be formally introduced to the plot.

 

Squire P-Patch

 

I’m really looking forward to gardening in this community setting.  I’ll be participating in some work parties throughout the year (it’s required), and I look forward to composting and gardening side by side with other food growers.

 

Squire P-Patch

 

Oh, I’m so excited I’ve already mapped out the plot with all the things we didn’t have enough space for at my mom’s, or that my mom just wasn’t inspired to grow.  Want to see?

 

Our P-Patch

 

Soybeans, beets, eggplant, bulb fennel, arugula and other greens, kohlrabi, kale, onions, carrots, rhubarb, and amaranth.  Wahoo!

 

I’ve been trying to go on daily walks, and now I have a destination….  This makes me very happy.

 

I Have Officially Launched A New Business!

Re-Vision Labs


Boy, it is never easy to start a new venture. I’ve been working hard these past few weeks, but finally we have officially launched Re-Vision Labs!


Here’s the scoop:  8 of us came together last fall, feeling the changing tides of both our economy and our environment. We didn’t know exactly what we wanted to do, but we knew we wanted to make a strong positive impact on the world. For months we toyed with different ways to do this, as we continued with our “day jobs.”  


And then, at last, we came upon the answer.  It was so simple – right before our eyes!  Each of us has come from entirely different backgrounds, but we all have one thing in common:  we have realized that community building is the key to regenerating our world.


So… introducing Re-Vision Labs, where “Our Business Is Community.” We plan to help create the economic and environmental changes that are so necessary in our current world.


The website is still in progress, but please check it out and let me know what you think!


How Was Your Holiday Celebration Different This Year?

The youngest, opening his first Christmas presents

The youngest, opening his first Christmas present


The hazardous snowy conditions, combined with precarious economic situations, remarkably altered the tone of our family’s holiday celebrations this year. There were fewer gifts and more hugs. There was more caring, more homemade food, more focus on the children and more emphasis on good conversation.


The snow brought us all together, as we phoned each other all morning trying to figure out whether each of us could make it, and who was picking up whom to minimize cars on the perilous roads. When we finally made it, the Frangelico-infused coffee warmed our tummies as we watched the snow fall from the skies and coat the earth. All of the food served was homemade. All of the gifts given were filled with extra thought and care.


Family Christmas Celebration


One of my relatives only had $200 for gifts this year, so she gave half to each of her two favorite local charities, saying, “we’re all so lucky that we have everything we need.” My grandfather, who often gives each person in the family a check for Christmas, kept most of his money in his dwindling investments this year and instead gave a bit of cash to each of the youngest kids for their savings accounts.


There was far less wrapping paper and plastic wrap in the trash this year. Because there were fewer gifts, but also because my mom wrapped each gift she gave in a reusable grocery bag. Matt and I wrapped in reused paper and cloth bags – or we didn’t wrap at all.


We kept most of our traditions, but sometimes they were switched a bit due to the snow. For instance, we didn’t gather on Christmas Eve because the roads were too icy – so we read ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas on Christmas night, with my sister and her husband participating via speaker phone. But these switches actually made the holiday even more meaningful.


Grandpa, Marion, and their Great, Great Grandson


These are difficult economic times for many of us, and the snow made our streets unsafe, but there sure were some wonderful side effects to both of these elements this holiday season. Did you have a similar experience?


How Was Your Holiday Celebration Different This Year?


Were there fewer gifts, more hand- or home-made? Was there a greater sense of togetherness?


Surviving Snow In Seattle

Seattle in Snow


My apologies for a long absence here! It has been quite a crazy couple of months for Matt and I. I’m still recovering from a horrible virus I contracted while staying with Matt at the hospital. It has turned to a sinus and ear infection, which is oh so painful when it’s coooold outside! But Matt is doing well and is mostly recovered, and we feel very lucky.


Here’s our building in the snow – yes, it’s called “The Snowdon”:


Snowdon (our building) in the Snow


Crunchy Chicken wrote the other day about how Seattle shuts down in the snow. We don’t get snow very often here – maybe once a year if we’re lucky – so there are no snow ploughs. No de-icing trucks. Our airport virtually shut down the other day because they ran out of de-icing fluid! And, as might be expected, Seattle drivers are not so good in the snow. Our roads are littered with abandoned cars, trucks, and buses. It is a sight!


Incidentally, the picture Crunchy posted is about 2 blocks from our apartment. Fortunately, all the children in those two busses hanging over the freeway were able to get out safely.


Our Neighborhood in Snow


But Seattle is beautiful in the snow, isn’t it? It’s a wonderful time to relax, to stay home and safe while drinking tea or hot buttered rum. It brings neighbors together, as there are groups sledding (and even skiing!) together down steep closed streets, people are helping each other push cars to safety, smiling at one another as we shiver walking down the street, laughing at dogs in coats….


Lots of Dogs With Coats in Seattle!


Ellis, our rescued pup from Orange County, California, is … not quite used to the snow and doesn’t know what to make of the fact that his grass and bushes have disappeared. He sinks to his belly, generally looks sad in the snow, and prefers to be at home, snuggled up with his “sister” on the couch. Raisin, who has probably never seen snow either, is generally fascinated from inside, but is also very content to snuggle with Ellis…


Ellis Miserable In The Snow

Raisin Looking For Ways To Climb Inside

Ellis and Raisin Snuggling


I hope all of you in the Northern Hemisphere are snuggled up and warm this holiday season. Thank you for reading, and please be safe!


Planting Native Plants

St. Mark's Greenbelt Trail


Sunday was the Third Annual Green Seattle Day, where around 700 people turned out to replace invasive plants with native plants in 20 parks around the city. As part of our new Urban Gardening Committee at Sustainable Capitol Hill, several of us worked with others in our community to plant native plants in our neighborhood greenbelt.


Planting for erosion control on the slope


And… did I mention that in the morning it was ABSOLUTELY POURING DOWN RAIN??! But we braved it!


Alexis Battling Invasive Holly


We met and huddled under cover to learn basic tool skills and safety information. And then we set to work, clearing ivy and other (mostly English) invasives, and planting oregon grapes, yews, dogwood, ferns, and much more.


Gabriel Trimming A Damaged Branch

Jill planting dogwood


Fortunately later in the day we were rewarded with beautiful sunshine, some very sore muscles (!!!), and - most importantly – a feeling that we’d helped make this park a welcome home to native wildlife.


The tired but happy SCH Green Seattle Crew

Melinda, Gabriel, Jill, Alexis, Clayton (left to right)


For more information about native and invasive plants – and what you can do to help, please visit:



Update:  LatigoLiz has shared two great resources:  

 


Reflections

My aunt and cousins:  Omari, Nadira, Aunt Susan, Hadiya (from left to right)


I have three beautiful cousins who are being raised by their aunt in Florida. They’re African-American, two girls and one boy: Hadiya, Nadira, and Omari. I love them dearly – they’re amazing people. Some of you might remember my visit with them, where I stopped to see them on my way home from filming in the Dominican Republic in the spring.


The first night of my visit, we were all sitting on the porch eating a yummy dinner and Nadira, the youngest, asked who I was going to vote for: Hillary or Barak. All three of them said they were voting for Barak – and they were beaming when they said it.


Later that evening my aunt and I were talking after they’d gone to bed and she said, that it doesn’t matter so much who wins. What matters is that here are three children who are growing up thinking that it is normal for a woman and a black man to become president.


When I was a child in the 70s, we were still coming out of the Civil Rights Movement. Women’s Lib was the current phrase. People were fighting hard for basic rights. The Equal Rights Amendment didn’t even pass.


And here we are today, a woman ran for president. An African-American ran for president. And another woman ran for Vice President. And wow, our country has elected an African-American to become our new president. What a victory for tolerance, for diversity, for the American dream as our ancestors immigrated here hoping for a better life, for equal footing, for respect, and for the chance to be who they dream to be.


Impromptu Neighborhood Street Party on Broadway

The party grows and attracts local media

Hailing the bus!


Here are some pictures I took with my cell phone as Matt and I walked home from an election party on Tuesday night. This is the center of our neighborhood, on Broadway and Olive, just up the street from our house. Hundreds of people were dancing in the streets for hours. White, black, hispanic, gay and straight – all dancing together, celebrating diversity, celebrating hope, celebrating a new America.


We have come a long way. Here in Seattle, we voted to extend our new mass transit system. We voted for more parks. We voted to refurbish the aging downtown farmer’s market. Californians voted to extend animal rights. It was a good night to be an American.


In this neighborhood where I live, a large portion of the population is gay. And while we made great strides toward equal rights this week, we are not finished with this process. Three states voted for a ban on gay marriage. So we still have a long way to go.


But I am hopeful that we have come so far in my 35 years. I am hopeful that the children of my many gay friends will see great strides during their lifetime, that they will see tolerance grow, that they will experience the breadth of the American dream, as people of all types live here hoping for equal footing, for respect, and for the chance to be who they dream to be.


This week I am proud to be an American. Whoever you voted for on Tuesday, I hope you are proud too. Here’s to increased tolerance, to extended mass transit, to more parks, to improved farmer’s markets, to animal’s rights, to diversity, to respect, and to a wonderfully improving America!


Update: Just found this video of our neighborhood party…