Took this picture today. A tiny poppy came up after the mowing!
The object of this project is very simple: to build a small communal herb and vegetable garden in the yard of my apartment block.
In some places this would be an easy task. But this isn’t one of those places. The first obstacle is getting permission to use the grounds.
There are a lot of unspoken rules about the use of land in these apartment blocks. One is that the person who lives under the window gets access to the land under that window. This means that only those who live on the ground floor have the unspoken right to use the land in front of the building. It’s sort of like a front yard. Access grants rights. Some exercise the right but most do not. However, there is a vast amount of “common” space in front of these buildings, but how to get permission to use that?
It’s only thanks to an amazing person called Karolina Pluta and an amazing organization called ę or Towarzystwo Iniciatyw Twóczych that this problem was overcome. Here is what we had to do.
We talked to the director of the District. Warsaw’s hierarchy of housing administration is a complicated thing. You live in an Apartment (Mieszkania). That apartment is in a section of the building called a Klatka, (literally means Cage). The apartment building itself is called a Blok. The blok is part of a smaller group called an Osiedle (no real translation, maybe “Housing complex”). Those buildings are part of a larger group called a Colony (Kolonia). A colony is part of an Okolica (neighborhood), which is part of a District or Dzielnica. RIGHT.
Fortunately, the director of our District is a very nice woman who thought this idea was a marvelous one. However, she said, some bloks are very active in their use of the common space, others not so much. Some of the osiedle love to plant things, others don’t. My blok and osiedle were of the sort that don’t. She would have to go to the council of my blok and ask them if and where the garden could be placed.
It seems the only spot was located to the south of the building, which we are interpreting as the one pictured below. It’s not the best spot, but it’s a spot:
Here is a woman. Notice she is an old woman. No she is not picking up garbage. No she is not picking up her dog’s poo. Nobody picks up poo in Poland. But they do pick up hazelnuts!
I saw another cool thing. There is a walnut tree near my house on the street. One day I saw some city workers, who are always wearing these awesome blue overalls, gathered around the walnut tree. There were two of them high up in the tree shaking the hell out of it and two more on the ground snatching up all the walnuts. They cleaned the tree out!
Today I noticed that one of my neighbors at the garden had about 40 kale plants growing on his plot. They are all about 4 feet high. I’ve never seen such kale! How did he do it?
I stopped and told him how lovely it looked, how much I love kale. He asked me if I wanted some. Of course and gladly, I do, I do. He handed me a bundle over the fence. He was younger than my other two neighbors. He gardens without a shirt on. He grows a lot of food. He looks like Alan Arkin.
Hail Pan Kale.
I saw a man on the street today. He had this amazing homemade bike cart. This is the kind of guy I need to help me! This spring, I’m keeping my eyes open for these geniuses and maybe I will succeed where before I failed.
You see, last spring I was dreaming about bike carts. I’d be been hauling water, garbage, shovels, and dirt on my bike, tied on with bungy cords, balanced on the handlebars, the back wheel, in baskets. I downloaded a great design that calls for conduit and some welding equipment & set about looking for the parts.
I contacted the anarchist squat, Elba, because I’d heard they had some sort of bike shop. Turns out it was not in operation at the time. So I went to a bike shop called Lowery (Rowery means bicycles in Polish). There I found some carts for sale that were expensive and weak. A person there told me that conduit piping is not used in Poland. What? What do they use instead? Plastic.
Another essential building tool that is not in ordinary shops here is simple lumber, equivalent of 2 x 4′s, 1 x 12′s, and so on. At the hardware stores all you see is a sort of nasty plastic-covered particle board. Sometimes just particle board.
After some research I discovered that if you want that sort of wood you need to find a lumber yard, tartak, it’s called. So I went down there and it was amazing and cheap. You can buy a roomful of sawdust of 5 dollars! Unfortunately they all seem to be located at the farthest edge of the city and only with a car and a lot of patience (traffic here is worse than Los Angeles) can one reach it. Far too far to haul back by bike (cart).
Anyway, this is the sort of cart I want. It looks a little like a chicken cage, there.
The meadow has been mowed. It’s hard to believe that someone would want to mow down all those pretty flowers, but they did. We don’t know when it happened. Sometime between July 11 and September 10 — a long span! However, wildflower meadows need to be mowed once a year anyway. Ideally, it would have been mowed in the fall so that the seeds could make new flowers. But, we’ll simply plant more wildflower seeds in the bald spots after the first frost. In the meantime we’ll pick the non-wildflower weeds and keep it clear of garbage. Perhaps in the spring we’ll have to take some action to prevent another ill-timed cutting.
The picture above shows that some of the wildflowers survived the cut. I think I see the chrysanthemums and chamomile.
I also just found THIS SEED COMPANY SITE which has some good information about growing wildflower meadows.
After more than two months of unintended permaculture, the garden is a weird overgrown wonderland where Nasturtiums and Nettles reign.