Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Conquering the invasive cesspool - tonight!

Tonight, at 7:30pm, we'll be back at 1st and Annie, at the Cesar Chavez mural in South Austin. Last week we did quite a job on the "cesspool" of invasive plants at the base of the mural. We tore out the china berries and other bad trees with a weed wrench. It made us feel tough. But there is still much work to be done in terms of pulling out and cleaning up the scraggly grasses, which have probably left their seeds behind in the dirt.

We want to get the area as cleaned up as possible. Then we have sunflower seeds and an agave to plant, plus seed bombs. We also have the makings for a garden sign. And there is a plan to get the mulch in at the other mural.

We hope you'll join us - bring any tools you might have to pull up grass and do some planting. Flashlights are good, too!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

New garden, near same location!

Tonight we'll be returning to the corner of S 1st & Annie at 7:30 pm, but we'll be moving across the street. Across from the "Greetings from Austin" mural is a lesser known mural featuring Cesar Chavez besmirched by some graffiti with little artistic value. There are also some nice looking sunflowers painted onto the wall. Right now, the ground beneath it is a mess of weeds and rapidly growing invasive chinaberries.

With a bit of the Garden Posse magic, the mural will become the backdrop to a beautiful garden. Plans tonight are to pull up the weeds and invasives, and figure out plans and plants for the garden. This shouldn't take more than an hour - please come out and join us tonight!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Photos from the "Greetings from Austin" mural

Our "Greetings from Austin" garden is nearly complete! All it requires is massive amounts of mulch, a sign, and a bit of continuing TLC. Here are the long-delayed photos from our two nights on the job.

It's the crew! "Greetings" from the Garden Posse.

Planting our first bed with bluebonnets, sedums, and other succulents.

Travis throwing dust in the air with his rabid shoveling.

A highlight of the dig was watching a vintage firetruck being towed from Roadhouse Relics. You never know what wonders you might see at a Garden Posse dig, really.

Nor do you know what kinds of amazingly generous and helpful people you may meet. This is the second night, when we discovered our garden frame had disappeared.

Here at the workshop near Happiness, Vic and Ryan swiftly measure and cut our three-armed frame.

Emily says, "Look, I'm helping!" Mostly we stood back and were impressed with our own good fortune.

The biggest challenge? Tying this awkward thing on to the car.

And then my camera battery died. But the Posse lived on.

So there you have it, folks! The pictures I promised to post weeks ago. We are likely going to move across the street to fix up the lesser known Cesar Chavez and sunflower mural. Details upcoming tomorrow.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Adventures in late night gardening

I'd like to say up front that I apologize for not being a more wonderful blogger. The truth is I (Lindsay) have been experiencing some computer problems (hard drive death, considering throwing it off a second-story balcony). Blogger has been acting weird on my other computer. And now my camera battery is also dead, and I can't find the charger. It's one of those weeks, right? So I won't be able to show you photos of our magnificent Garden Posse adventures until the digital gods resume smiling on me. 

Fortunately, the garden gods have been just beaming at the Posse. Well, kind of. So two weeks ago, we dug into the hard, compacted soil underneath the "Greetings from Austin" mural, with the blessings  of the property owner. Who was moving his vintage fire department truck at the time. It was neat. Anyhow, we planted a thin strip of sedums and bluebonnets, along with a ghost plant and a jade plant donated by a neighbor, on the right side of the mural. On the other side, our diggers were not having so much success. We decided it would be best, and look better, to build a raised garden bed with a wooden frame. 

Travis, bored over the weekend, built us a frame. But he wasn't going to be able to make it on Tuesday, so he dropped it off beforehand. When the Posse arrived at 7:30pm, the frame was nowhere to be seen. Who steals a garden frame? Seriously. We were puzzled, and not a little disappointed in humanity. Everyone else in the area seemed so nice. Without a garden frame, our plans were in a bit of a bind. 

So I ran off to GAGA, a few blocks up, thinking that even if they didn't have extra wood, they might have an even more creative solution. Unfortunately, it was closed. Across the street is Happiness, an adorable succulent and gift shop. I thought as gardeners, they might be sympathetic. They were all sitting around a table, drinking beer when I ran in and explained myself. One guy said, "Sure, we got a pile of donated wood," and I was whisked back to some workshop area where Vic and Ryan decided they would just build us a brand new frame to order. "Bada-bing, bada-boom!" is how Vic described it. He had some colorful expressions. 

We measured the bed and returned to the workshop. In less than 10 minutes, we had a brand new, very sturdy garden frame. The comical part was when we had to tie the frame to the top of my station wagon, and drive back to the mural with hazard lights on. And after that, everything went as planned. We filled the frame with rich soil and  compost, and planted a ton of plants. And it looks great. 

The Garden Posse had triumphed over adversity. We were extremely lucky to have found such generous and able people to help us out. Guerrilla gardening is like that - people take and people give. And it always seems like the people giving are giving so much more than what is taken. It gives you an optimistic feeling about humanity.

There's still a bit more work in our plan for the mural - it involves a truckload of free mulch. But next week we'll be relaxing from this week's adventures. We'll be meeting at 7:30 pm at Salvation Pizza for the pizza and beer. And checking out the 34th street garden, maybe doing some weeding or replanting. We hope you come hang out.

And thanks to Chaz for stopping by to say hi and drop off plants on Tuesday! Hi!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Denmark's Public Picnic project

It's not guerrilla gardening, it's more like guerrilla picnicking. A few summers ago, a group in Copenhagen, Denmark, took over a wild and abandoned urban plot full of wild berries, apple trees, and weeds. They created a public garden for the staging of a series of picnics. Their intent was to go back to nature within the city, and escape the commercialization of the urban environment.

From an essay on Free Soil:
The early allotment gardens in Denmark were connected to the workers movement and thus had a political component. Many workers got access to a plot of land away from overpopulated cities and small apartments. Access to land was especially 100 years ago a deeply democratic spatial project, as well as about having places for leisure and retreat from working life. Today it is harder to spot the project in the allotments and it seems there is a need to define what are the spatial rights worth fighting for now?

An attempted answer could be that we need spaces free from the omnipresent regime of disciplining by media and commerce and institutions telling us how to live our lives, how to look, act and feel. Places where the collective is possible, where there is no division between production and play, between pleasure and politics; places for the life-world.

....This is the spaces we want, spaces in out neighbourhood where we can meet, organize and express ourselves in informal ways. It is a modest demand: inclusive spaces free of commercials, self organized urban free spaces where we live, everywhere.
Public Picnic's motivation is more idealistic and political than the Garden Posse, but we share the intent of reclaiming public space for communities, and valuing the natural productivity of the land. There are lots of places in Austin (such as the area around Quilombo) which are similar to Public Picnic's Copenhagen plot. Check out more of the project on their website: Publik Picnic.

Monday, March 2, 2009

New dig: Greetings from Austin!

Last week a few of us Posse members arrived at the famous "Greetings from Austin" mural on the side of Roadhouse Relics to find a note written for us. Our reputation had somehow preceded us. The owner of the sign shop wanted us to contact and speak with him before we did anything with his property. We all heartily agreed, as the area we want to garden is right up against the building. I know we say we garden only public property, but the mural is heavily trafficked by the public. We're interested in guerrilla gardening a visible area in time for South by Southwest. So Travis got in touch with the owner, and he gave us the go-ahead to garden in the way we wish.

Tomorrow we will break ground on our first garden of 2009! Be there at the corner of S 1st and Annie at 7:30 pm on Tuesday. We'll be deciding how to landscape, tearing up the compacted ground with our shovels and Cobra tools (!), amending the soil and hopefully getting some stuff in the ground.

We'll have most of our supplies from Shoal Creek. Please bring shovels, pick-axes, flashlights, and any plants and/or seeds you would like to contribute. We think this will be mainly a succulent and flower garden.