almost forgot about lawn mowers

This morning I woke up to a sound I hadn’t heard in a long, long time: the sound of a lawn mower.

Image taken from http://www.postcardroundup.com/category/advertising-postcards

For a moment, while my eyes were still shut, the sound brought back pleasant memories of summertime at my parents’ house. Lawn mowers were a sure sign that summer was finally here. Sometimes, especially on weekends, many neighbours mowed their lawns at the same time – when they stopped, the air smelled like grass and the more subtle sounds of summer re-emerged: small birds chirping, seagulls, kids playing tag, someone whizzing down the hill on a bicycle.

I had never really put much thought into lawns until university, where I realized how unsustainable they can be. As an enlightened student, I passed harsh judgements on those who unconsciously mowed, watered, fertilized their patches of grass. I’ve quit the judging part, but I still can’t believe that lawns continue to be the preferred option for so many.

So this morning, when I opened my eyes and pulled myself out of my daydream, I wondered who would be using a lawn mower in this city – and not a rustic push mower (that would be a huge improvement) – but a full on gas powered lawn mower. It just seemed ridiculous.

A few years ago, a friend bought a house in a suburban development where lawns were no laughing matter. Grass was mandatory – replacing it with a garden was not an option. She had to mow it regularly or risk a fine. If the lawn looked unhealthy, she was guaranteed to receive complaints from neighbours and the residents’ association. Oh yes, all this for a patch of lawn no bigger than 20m2. Lawns are not mandatory here. Yet, given the chance, everyone jumps at the opportunity to grow their own.

I know, I know, this seems like a bit of a rant. I guess it is. That lawn mower’s contribution to the noise level on my street has almost made me cranky.

 

Oh yes, if you’re really curious about lawns, here’s a very interesting read on the lawn in its historical, artistic, literary, and political contexts: The American Lawn, by Georges Teyssot

 

 

 

 

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johan thörnqvist’s imaginary cities

Swedish illustrator Johan Thörnqvist draws the quirkiest, most charming little worlds on photographs.

Illustration by Johan Thörnqvist, ‘brandpost med hus på

His imaginary cities, mounted sometimes on a fire hydrant, sometimes on a blossom, a flower or a lamp, have a way of capturing my imagination. There is an almost childlike quality to them, and I mean that in the best possible way – in the way that brings me back to afternoons spent creating make-believe cities of my own – except that in this case, the execution is just brilliant. Take a look at his work!

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bag full of vegetables

Food, food, food. Whether I’m imagining a concoction for dinner, reading recipes (… ooh, and looking at the pictures!), recalling a delicious restaurant experience, stopping at the corner market – it has a near monopoly on my mind.

Like so many people, I strive to make the ‘right’ food choices – informed, conscious, mindful ones, choices that will contribute to my health and won’t leave me feeling guilty. It gets tricky, between buying organic, biodynamic, ethical, fairtrade, seasonal and local produce!

I just love how it’s becoming easier for city dwellers to eat (almost) as they would in the country. Last winter, D. and I decided to join a cooperative that supplies us with a weekly bag full of local, seasonal organic and/or biodynamic produce. I was very excited – what an awesome way to cover so many bases! My slightly romantic self fantasized about piles of fresh fruit and vegetables, while waiting eagerly to discover the contents of our first bag. I was not disappointed. I cooked away all week, using our celery root, beets, carrots, onions, potatoes, parsnips and sunchokes. Soups! Stews! Loaves! Then came the second bag, with sensibly the same contents, but alternating some of the roots for parsley root and cabbage. More soups! More stews! More loaves!

By the time we ordered the fourth or fifth bag, I was still enthusiastic, but a new emotion surfaced: I was apprehensive . As we were quite committed to the idea of eating only these seasonal, local vegetables, we had been holding back from buying the usual lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc. that have always been part of our year-round diet. I was apprehensive at the thought of more potatoes. More potatoes!? We still had some left over from the week before. My imagination was shutting down! What did I expect? We live north of the 55th parallel!

I have to admit that my romantic vision of eating locally and seasonally took a hit. But I hung in there, trying to be creative with all the roots that came my way. Then came some mushrooms. Then came asparagus. Then came kale and chards and lettuce, cucumbers, courgettes, fava beans and peas! This week there were even gooseberries. Each bag is such a treat, and I expect the exhilaration to last until late Autumn. I’ll be ready for the roots when their turn comes!

I have a much profound understanding of what it means to live in a northern part of our planet in terms of food, and I haven’t even gone through a whole annual cycle yet. As I was writing this, I read about the movie Eating Alaska, which made me realize we all face food challenges. The film chronicles a vegetarian’s search for a sustainable, healthy and ethical meal after moving to Alaska – watch the trailer – I know it made me add it to my ‘to-watch’ list:

 


Film by Ellen Frankenstein

 

Full disclosure: We do cheat and buy some tropical fruit once in a while, as well as some Mediterranean vegetables… they can be so tempting!

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travel… by public transportation

D. and I have a habit of taking the commuter train every month and getting off at the end of the line. We get a kick out of exploring towns on the outskirts of the city where we would otherwise never go. When we travel to other cities, we always make a point of trying their buses, tramways, metros, trains, etc. – as much as some people claim to despise public transit, we love it!

A few weeks ago, I read a post on Treehugger that really stuck in my head. Writer Joe Eskenazi wrote a piece in the SFWeekly - worth reading  – where he described a trip he took from San Fransisco to Los Angeles. Here’s the catch:  inspired by Matt Nelson, the transit nerd behind the blog City Streets, he used only public transportation to reach his destination. Granted, his journey took 32 hours to complete, but the idea seems worth exploring.

The first thing I thought was that this couldn’t work anywhere – density and connectivity are essential. In Canada, I probably couldn’t go far beyond the suburbs of the main cities. Here in Denmark, I can’t stop wondering how far into Europe I could get… this is exactly the type of thought that makes my travel itch flare up again! Public transportation is such a good way to get a glimpse of authenticity – the people, residential neighbourhoods, streets. I can almost see myself reaching Italy… after 1000 transfers  ;)

Of course I won’t hop on Bus 4A tomorrow morning with my backpack – though the idea of using public transit is quite simple, this type of trip would actually take a lot of planning. I also suspect that the cumulative transit fares would add up to the price of a train ticket or flight… but where’s the challenge there?

 

Have a nice day!

 

 

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