Random Guy, Sharing and Community

“Some random guy filled up himself and his water bottle with my hose this afternoon.”  That was how I began a status update on my Facebook page.  I actually thought it was kind of cool that he did it. I mean, I haven’t done something like that since I was a kid.  A few comments were made about the prudence of his act (ie: the safety of the hose) and not owning the hose or water.  But, since I hadn’t even thought of those things, I wondered why I hadn’t.

I was actually very pleased that he chose my hose.  The idea that someone needed some water and filled up made me feel like I helped out somehow.  It reminded me of my childhood — those moments of sharing, of feeling safe enough to drink from a neighborhood hose (even on another block).  It was notable to see Random Guy doing it, because no one does anything like that anymore!

And that just might be worth thinking about.

It touches on a deeper issue about whether there are limits to “community,” if community is to be measured by the degree of sharing (and vice versa).  Sure, in the best neighborhoods you know your neighbors, share stuff (from lemons to gossip) with them, socialize and support each other.  You generally have a sense of community with the people who are there all the time, who have agency through residency or “official” guest status.  But how should we feel when someone with none of this momentarily steps in the bubble?

Do we welcome them?  Do we “one-eyed-suspicion” them?  And, how should they feel?

I suppose as with any ideas about community, some of it is about who’s seeking entry and how.  Random Guy didn’t look scary, just thirsty.  He had to reach through the spiny bougainvillea to the spigot, too.  (So it wasn’t the greatest experience for him.)  He apologized when I came out to investigate.  He had stepped squarely into the bubble…and I didn’t mind.  What if it had been my tomatoes?  I have a zillion tomatoes.  I wouldn’t care if someone took a few.  But, there’s a difference between taking what you need and taking the whole plant.  If Random Guy had pulled up a car and started washing it, now that would be a problem.  But, it would be a problem if anyone did that.

Some of the ideas about community rest on how we define actions and what makes us happy.  I considered the hose use sharing, not stealing.  And I liked sharing my water.  Sharing can make you happy!  In a recent study, eight out of ten UK residents reported that sharing makes them happy (but not sharing their toothbrushes). Indeed, over half of the respondents said they’d “love to find ways of being able to share their time and resources within their local community.”

So, it looks like two of the prerequisites for bubble entry are acceptability (ie: don’t be scary) and positive impact (ie: make me happy).  Random Guy satisfied both.  If he comes back, I’ll ask him his name.


Earth Day Rockin’ Eve

Earth Day Eve

Okay, so it’s not quite New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.  But, we’d venture to state it’s even better!  If you’re in California April 21st — that’s Earth Day Eve — join us for an evening celebrating a bit of everything!  You’ll be treated to a not-even-boring talk about permaculture and its status as a “revolution disguised as gardening.”  You might even hear the expanded go at our “Ecological Theory of Everything.”

Can’t make it to SoCal?  We’ll set up a Google+ Hangout for you to join the fun.  Just join our circle at home&community inc’s Google page.

How do we appeal to thee, let us count the ways…

Hello community food and urban gardening friends!  We’re one-twelfth of the way through 2012 and working away.  Some of that work is the work of raising not just food, but funds to raise food!  Thankfully, we’re surrounded by great friends who are stepping up to support that part of the effort.

We’ll be holding our first and largest fundraiser of the year just before Earth Day.  There will be plenty of green swag for everyone!  Later in the spring, there will be a gleaning fieldtrip and an event to learn about (and enjoy!) winemaking.  Then, we’re holding a Great Gatsby themed function in the fall, complete with an era-appropriate drink and food menu!

Meanwhile, we’ve got an ongoing “mud and wheels” appeal – offering a recurring donation option.  Did you know that for only $ 7.50 per month – the oft-quoted cost of a few grande lattes – you can provide dirt and water and (hopefully) a delivery bike for our clients at our Original Green growing sites? That’s more than just mud and wheels!

Here’s the latest…We’ve got five beds growing and building seven more for spring and summer planting.  Our plan includes acquiring another donated site (already identified!) and food deliveries to elderly residents.  In addition to the mud, we’ll need seeds, plants, redwood, amendments and kid-size tools.  We raised nearly $2,500 for our community food plan in 2011.  That’s a great number, and we are grateful, but we can definitely grow more good with more help!

Maybe you’ll trade a latte to help us make mud (and expand our community food plan)? You can learn more and find our “Subscribe” button here.

Oh, and if you haven’t seen it, here’s a video from one of our Slow Food events, courtesy the folks at PowerSharing. It highlights some of the work we engaged in last year with our friends and master gardener at Nickerson Gardens. Thank you, and stay tuned!

Love thy neighborfood

Sending some Valentines Day love and getting all the gardens (both personal and new sites) organized and planned.  We’ll do tomatoes, bell peppers and squash at the sites, for sure.  (Thinking about trying grapes at home this year!)  We’re hoping to get more ideas at our community raising dinner later on this week, too.  Between these two events, an idea has already taken root (route?).  One of Saturday night’s attendees mentioned our community supported kitchen research, and she and I started talking about other ways communities could support each other through the garden.

Through OriginalGreen, we want the garden to be for the community in the standard ways…distributing food among residents, mobile food carts, exchanges/sales to local restaurants.  But even less formal and more available to the entire community will be trees that will be available for gleaning.  If someone wants to grab an orange from a limb overhanging the public sidewalk, we want to make it clear that that’s cool.

We talked about ways to support the neighborhoods where our sites are and how we don’t appreciate enough all the local, edible plants.  It was during this discussion that I had an “a ha! moment”: why not Community Supported Gleaning?  Why not work with a small group of residents in a limited radius to head out and pick some of the neighborhood’s overburdened fruit trees?  Then, distribute that gleaning to others utilizing the cooperative model? It would be like having your own supermarket on the street. As with most of the “a ha!” moments that present themselves around home&community inc, few are unique or pioneering (even OriginalGreen is about getting back to our growing/homemaking origins).  Indeed, a simple Google search reveals many a community supported foraging group.

But, we imagine that around and for our sites, it would be less wild berries, mushrooms and nettles and more avocados, oranges and loquats.  People would collect the fruit and distribute it to others who subscribed (a few bucks for the service) for a small box. Membership would be free. Certainly the prospect brings up all sorts of questions about regulations or permits.  Perhaps make it a “club,” as others have, so the responsibility rests with participants?  Ah, who knows?  But every community could use this kind of sharing.  Just another idea for bringing a little food appreciation and love to the neighborhood.

If you want to know where you can glean and forage, we’ve compiled a list with information for 21 states.

Happy Valentines Day.

Shhh! Top Secret!

We added a “Top Secret” tab on our Facebook page for our supporters.  In other words, if someone has “Liked” our OriginalGreen page, they have access to content non-Likers don’t.  It’s not a gimmick…there’s just some news that we think might be more interesting to people who are already connected (maybe invested?) in the project.  We just wanted to keep them apprised of some of the details of our work, in addition to a few little goodies here and there!  Don’t worry, if you don’t “Like” us, we still like you!  And there’s still plenty of good information to take from the page.

So, if you’re already digging this blog, check out our Facebook page by clicking on the green logo over there on the right, and see if any of our links and news inspire (or even provoke) you in any way. Then, go ahead and “Like” us for even more!  We want to grow a community dedicated to finding solutions to food insecurity and increasing sustainability in low-income communities.  We’d love for you to be a part of it…

Thank you one-oh-two…

Our OriginalGreen project is chock full of tasks. We’re:

– counting the number of community gardens in public housing,

– highlighting community gardens and CSAs that help low-income and homeless people,

– providing “clean recipes” for natural home cleaning, and

– setting the groundwork for a mapping protocol that will show where food is available in a community (and how to get to it).

It’s all good stuff, and we are continuously buoyed by our OG supporters.  It’s hard to come up with different ways to thank people, and it’s even harder to come up with something personalized for a large number of people.  But, we’ve tried to be both fun and individualized in thanking our first 102 supporters on Facebook.  Why 102?  Why not?!

Here’s a little music for the (102) masses

Spring Gleaning

We’re always offering ways for people to get involved in improving food choices for low-income people. Remember one person can make a difference.  So…have you gleaned lately?

Historically, gleaning is the process of harvesting leftover crops from farms. In an urban context, it’s generally the gathering of excess produce on plants in the city. The goal is to harvest before it falls to the ground and rots. This unused produce from private and public trees is taken to food banks and other organizations that feed the hungry — providing low-income people with access to fresh fruit and vegetables. There are a number of websites, individuals and other groups organizing people to gather produce. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of some of those groups, in some of our network areas. Let us know about any others we should add. And, if you’ve got extra fruit or vegetables, donate it!  Waste not…






CA (Updated 8/12)









http://foodforward.org/ (NEW! 8/12)

















































OriginalGreen project

We thought our first blog post would be about who we are and why we’re here.  But, we soon realized that time is of the essence.  There is so much to talk about and so much to do.  We need to get to work improving communities! You’ll be getting to know us in the coming days and months, but for those that need to know now, you can read all about us at www.homeandcommunity.org .

Spring is here, and we’re planting.  It got us thinking about the ways we’re helping low-income folks create their own urban gardens via our OriginalGreen project.  There are a lot of ways of knowing out there, and we work with people in at least 40 states.  But, our garden is in Los Angeles, and it is decidedly different than yours in Madison or yours in Greensboro or yours in Bloomington.

So, instead of reinventing the (garden) wheel, we’re looking for ways to involve everyone in the good work of adding to our research.  We know there are a lot of you out there with mad gardening skills to share.  Tell us what your process is for growing in a small area like a side yard or containers.  What works — maybe more importantly, what doesn’t?

If you’ve actually got a garden to show us, go to our Facebook page at OriginalGreen, become a fan and check the Discussions tab for details about sharing your images. We’re giving away free stuff for your trouble!  And we’ll eventually compile the information into a national gardening resource for the low-income residents we serve.

It’s great to be here!