Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Up the Yangtze

Last night I saw Up the Yangtze, an amazing film about China's Yangtze River. The "biggest engineering endeavour since the Great Wall, China has set out to harness the Yangtze with the world's largest mega-dam," the Three Gorges Dam. The film follows two young people who leave home to work on one of the river's cruise lines, Farewell Cruises, that caters to tourists who want to see the Yangtze before it is completely submerged once the dam is completed in 2010.

We watch as Yu Shui says goodbye to her family and starts a new life as a dishwasher on the cruise ship so that she can help to support her family and hopefully, earn enough money to attend high school. Meanwhile, Yu Shui's parents and younger siblings continue to live off the banks of the river. Their home, a shack surrounded by their small field of corn and other crops, is slowly being flooded by the rising water. This shack is their second home having already been pushed out of their first by the Three Gorges Dam project. Now they must leave again but this time they, like many other farmers from rural villages flooded by the dam, are being relocated to cities where they can no longer raise their own food. For many, the burden of buying food instead of growing it is more than they can afford.

There are many lessons and thoughts that I took away from this film. For one, it gave me another perspective about urban farming and its role in the changing face of China as millions of farmers become city dwellers. Will these farmers be forced to stop growing their own food altogether or will they continue to cultivate in the city as a new generation of Urban Farmers? And if so, what does the Chinese Urban Farm Cart look like?

A link to the film's website,

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Arin and Ben's Brooklyn Farm

(image from Arin's blog, "placenta does not belong in your hair,"
that can be read at

I visited my good friend, Arin, last weekend and was introduced to her urban farm, located in her beautiful backyard in Brooklyn. I met Roz, Estelle, and Rhonda, her egg-laying hens. Ben, Arin's husband, made us a delicious fried egg breakfast from eggs that had been collected that morning. I love the smartly designed chicken coop. This is not your grandparents' coop, but instead is a modern, efficient system made by Omlet USA (, a company that has an "award winning range of eglus" for raising chickens and rabbits.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tomatoes Caged

The tomato plants are huge. I got cages for them. There are flowers so hopefully actual tomatoes will follow.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Radish Harvest & They are Delishus!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Design Inspiration - Surf Fishing Carts

I love these surf fishing carts (available at that can carry 200lbs and can be pushed over sand and rocks. There are adapters for pulling the carts with a bike and to attach to a hitch on a vehicle.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


There is no doubt about it. Things are growing!

View of the beautiful post-summer storm sky from the garden lot.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Design Inspiration - Golf Bag Carts

On my way to water the garden, I passed the open door of an architecture office down the hallway from my loft. The cart just inside the door caught my eye (as a result of this project, anything with wheels and at all cart-like makes me stop to look). The two-wheeled, compact cart is used to carry a golf bag which was sitting next to it. So I started looking at other golf carts and was surprised by some of the smart designs I saw (minus the remote controlled, self-propelled motorized ones).

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Design Inspiration - Bike Trailers

I've been looking at the designs of bike trailers both those that are manufactured and those that are DIY projects. I'm studying their ruggedness, simplicity, lightweight materials, standardized wheels, construction, hitch systems and practicality.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Urban Farm Cart Part 2

My second stage of the Urban Farm Cart Project led me to focus more on material and form. It was, at this point, that I wanted to go screaming into the night. I felt stuck and started to realize that I really needed to grow some things in order to push the idea and design in the direction that I wanted it to go. I wanted something meaningful, functional and as a result, beautiful because of its logic and intent. I still want these attributes as the foundation of the Urban Farm Cart and this middle stage was the critical, albeit incredibly frustrating part of the process I needed in order to gain important insight on the project.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Urban Farm Cart Part 1

Here are some images from my early design ideas for the Urban Farm Cart. I imagined it as part of a larger network, where each cart could 'plug-in' to a city-owned and maintained Urban Farm Cart station. These stations, powered by solar photovoltaic panels and would provide electricity and water hook-up for urban farmers wishing to use them in order to sell their produce. The designated locations would be chosen by the city and community as the best spots for commerce, safe and efficient traffic flow and optimal sun exposure for the solar collectors.

As I worked on this early stage of the project, I focused on Little Village, a neighbourhood located in the City of Chicago. This is a predominantly Mexican community that is vibrant but in need of more economic opportunities; it is feeling the effects of the ailing U.S. economy and the current immigration policy that is forcing undocumented workers further into the informal sector. I saw thus network of Urban Farm Carts, Farmers and Farm Stations as an opportunity to create sustainable business opportunities for the residents as well as a way to turn empty lots and underutilized backyards and rooftops into create healthy green spaces.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Urban Green Space = Good

Being out in the empty lot next door to water and look at the garden is refreshing. Despite the man-made rubble that lies beneath, it's amazing to observe the life that thrives there - the wild flowers and plants, butterflies and dragonflies. The city breeze that moves through the space is different than the breeze that usually moves along concrete, brick and pavement. It is sweet-smelling and unobstructed. It's too bad more people can't enjoy it. I'm one of the few who has this view because I climb through the fence each day.

It's important for people to see things growing and thriving in the city. It seems to awaken something good in us. The people passing through the alley that runs next to the garden stop while I am there to say hi, to ask me what I am doing and tell me they are glad to see someone doing something positive in the vacant lot. These two small boxes of a few herbs and vegetables have a power that I did not anticipate - to start conversation, to create community and to show to others the potential that lies in a place that has been empty and fenced off from the neighbourhood for so long.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Is Anything Growing Yet?!

I went out and watered today. I think things are growing but I'm not certain yet!