Browngirl Going Green

Yes, I am Thinking and Saying Things, Just Not Here
July 9, 2010, 5:30 pm
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Oscar Grant mural in downtown Oakland on 17th and Telegraph

As a person of color, a writer, an activist, as a long-time resident of Oakland and someone who is Bay Area born-and-bred, I have some strong opinions and feelings about yesterday’s verdict in the Johannes Mehserle trial re: the murder of Oscar Grant. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to blog about it now because I have other writing to do, but if you’re interested in finding out more about what I think, please visit my Twitter feed, which is the main way I’ve been communicating with folks about what’s happening here.

And special shout out to Max Elbaum, fellow activist, writer and Oakland resident, whom I ran into at the rally last night downtown. He told me he's been following my blog (not sure which one) so just want to give him special thanks!


The Antidote to Browngirl’s Eco-Blues: Garden Bounty
July 7, 2010, 2:22 am
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The BP oil spill is still depressing, the City of Oakland is nearing hysteria over the upcoming verdict in the murder of Oscar Grant, and Obama still hasn’t lived up to our expectations. But some things in life are still beautiful: here are some photos of some veggies I’ve been growing in the backyard of my friend T. She grew the zukes, I grew the tomatoes (which are just starting to come in), beets and onions. Yummy and gorgeous!

Too Much Goin’ On
May 5, 2010, 2:42 am
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Where do I start? My life has been super-hectic with work lately, which is good for my pocketbook but not very good for my blogging and other writing (at least not in the short-term). And the world’s been kind of a schizo place lately, it seems—from the celebration of all things Earth Day and enviro this last month of April, to the devastating and tragically ironic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on the last day of the same month, to the craziness around the new Arizona anti-immigrant law.

On a more personal level, I’ve been trying to keep up with my garden while working tons more hours than I have in a long, long time, and mostly succeeded—me and my husband put a couple hours into taking care of the vegetable beds the other day, and were rewarded with the sight of broccoli heads poking out from between the huge leaves on my broccoli plants. I’ll post some pics later.

In other news, I went to check out some local ‘Bay-friendly’ aka environmentally sustainable gardens as part of the annual East Bay Bay Friendly Garden Tour, which was super-cool. Saw three Oakland gardens not more than a few miles from my home: a lovely terraced mini-forest garden shaded by huge redwoods; a C-shaped garden full of plants and flowers suited for its sunny location; and finally my friend Wally’s garden in deep East Oakland, which he pretty much ‘built’ himself, and includes keyhole veggie beds overflowing with fava beans, lots of drought-tolerant and native plants, and a hammock (aaahhh). Wally’s was the only stop on the garden tour, I’d venture a guess, where we were offered wine AND rum and coke.

Also, ate some of the pork chops from the sustainably and humanely raised pig that we share-bought a few months ago. Every bit of meat we’ve had from this pig has been frickin’ scrumptious—dense, meaty, savory.

I hope to put some more time into the garden and use some of my home-grown vermicompost in the beds soon. Which reminds me of something else I gotta do: feed my worms!

Gardening Update: Beets, Broccoli and More Onions
March 10, 2010, 1:31 am
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Just a quick post to give you the update on the garden I’m planting in my friend T.’s backyard raised beds. First, the cats that are digging up the beds are irritating me, although they haven’t done as much damage as I thought they might, which I attribute to the rain keeping them at bay.But I got a good tip from my friend Cathy about using old coffee bags (or any burlap bags, I’m guessing) to help keep kitties from digging up our beds and using them as litter boxes. Ick!

My husband and I spent a couple hours in the garden last weekend, planting more of the onions plants that I had (there were like 36 of them and I didn’t realize how much space they’d need, but I planted some of them closer together and plan to harvest them as green onions/scallions), as well as sowing some beet seeds and putting in some broccoli plants that I got at the Temescal Farmers Market. The nursery says that these broccoli are easy to grow, so I’m hoping that’s true as I’ve never grown broccoli before.

Next I’ll be sowing some lettuce seeds in pots, which I will eventually bring back to my yard behind my building, which is too shady to grow things like tomatoes but seems to do well for herbs and lettuce. Hope to post some pictures of the garden soon too, so stay tuned.

Two Dead Pelicans
January 30, 2010, 10:26 pm
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We saw the first one not long after we rounded the corner in a trail near the seasonal ponds at Martin Luther King, Jr. Regional Shoreline in Oakland. The park consists of protected marsh wetlands inhabited by many overwintering birds, as well as biking and walking trails inhabited by some people, and a lot of ground squirrels. I’ve also seen plenty of wild rabbits hopping around in the protected areas, but the birds are definitely the most visible inhabitants.

That day we’d seen a hawk (I think), a tiny black bird with an amazing red throat that was as vibrant as its high-pitched call, lots of different kinds of ducks, and several pelicans. It was a cold day, but not too cold, and we could hear the airplanes landing nearby at Oakland International Airport. And then we rounded the corner—my husband Henry and I—and saw something in the grass between the paved trail and the San Leandro Creek. We got closer, and saw that it was one of the enormous pelicans, lying in the grass, dead. It looked almost like it had been flattened, as it was stretched on its belly, its wings sprawled on the ground as if someone had stomped on it. We didn’t see any blood or any obvious wounds, and even if it did, what animal would’ve been big enough to kill it? Even a gang of raccoons would have had a hard time taking down the big-billed creature.

“That’s sad,” I said, and Henry agreed. We stood there for a moment out of respect for the dead animal, and then continued our walk. When we neared the next corner in the trail, I saw another dead pelican, this time inside the protected area of the park, which is fenced off to keep people and (I’m guessing) other animals out. Sadly, there are still clumps of garbage inside the parameters of the protected area. And on this gray, cloudy day, another dead pelican. This one wasn’t as big as the first one we’d seen just a few minutes before, but it was also semi-flattened on the ground, its dark gray webbed feet stretched out behind its body like metal rods.

Seeing one dead animal is sad enough, seeing two was just too much. The activist in me had to do something, so I looked in the park brochure for a number to call. I found one, not knowing if it was the appropriate one, and called. Surprisingly, a live person answered the phone (it was a Sunday afternoon, when most public offices are closed), and I told them about the two dead pelicans that we’d just seen. The woman sounded mildly concerned, and told me she would make sure park staff went out to check on the situation.

And then today I happened to read this as I was researching trail closures. It makes me wonder, did the two pelicans die because they were poisoned by ‘urban runoff’—which this document defines as “contaminants, such as litter, food, human & animal waste, automobile fluids, industrial pollutants, fertilizers and pesticides….[that create] health risks for people, killing marine life and contributing to localized flooding and beach closures.” I mean, if people aren’t supposed to go near bay water after a storm, why would it be safe for birds? Or did the birds eat some stray plastic bag that they thought was a shiny fish?

In any case, it was tragic, seeing two birds dead on what was otherwise a pleasant hike. And it was another reminder of how human activity can cause so much death and destruction. But Nature will always rebound—and a book I’ve just started reading, The World Without Us, is about just that. More on this later.

RIP, pelicans.