Getting ready for the Victory Garden Blitz of 2010

The Blitz is coming! The Blitz is coming! And that’s a very good thing. For it’s the Victory Garden Blitz, which will bring home gardens and good food to the people of our Milwaukee world.

Before I get into that, a little digression: I’ve spent the past three days pouring over sets of addresses. making maps and plotting routes, all while using a mathematical trick technique I learned in Math 106 class at UWM called Dijkstra’s algorithm. With it, you can plot the optimal route between any number of stops. It’s the fancy name for a logical, or perhaps an intuitive way, to find the route with the least distance between each stop. Here’s how it works:

DIJKSTRA (G, w, s)

  1. INITIALIZE SINGLE-SOURCE (G, s)
  2. S ← { } // S will ultimately contains vertices of final shortest-path weights from s
  3. Initialize priority queue Q i.e., Q ← V[G]
  4. while priority queue Q is not empty do
  5. u ← EXTRACT_MIN(Q) // Pull out new vertex
  6. S ← S È {u}
    // Perform relaxation for each vertex v adjacent to u
  7. for each vertex v in Adj[u] do
  8. Relax (u, v, w)

Got that? There’ll be a quiz later.

Really, what it is says is, with points A, B, C, …, start at point A, and find the closest point. Then find the next point, which might be point C, or point F. Lather, rinse, repeat. Curiously, the closest point is not always what it appears to be. For instance, I found it shaved a significant distance to go from 74th Street to 107th Street, and then to 103rd, though intuitively, 103rd would seem closer than 107th. But in the “real world,” where streets are aligned in odd ways and traffic comes and goes, it’s quicker and more direct to go from this particular block of 74th Street to 107th, and then to 103rd.

Google Maps has been absolutely indispensable in this task. It’s evolved as I’ve been using it, as has my skill with it. I found that you can click and drag the stops between one another, moving stop G to be between B and C. Before, I thought you had to copy G, paste it on the left side of C, bump everything down, copy and paste and hope you didn’t forget anything. But they’ve made it very easy to swap stops. And that made my life a lot easier.

Anyway. This coming Saturday the 29th, teams of volunteers will be swarming to over 100 sites all around Milwaukee and the numerous burbs to build raised beds at people’s houses. They will look a lot like the five that were built at our house last year:

And I’ve posted a time or two about some of the great food we’ve grown in them.

While we’re not building any new beds at my house for the Blitz this year, I’ve made between two and six new beds at our house so far this year. They’re all unusual, made from tires, or filling a space along the alley. (See below.)

A new garden bed built next to the fence along the back alley behind our house.

Anyhow, if you would like to participate in the Blitz, come to the Urban Ecology Center at 8 AM on Saturday for the big event kickoff, or call the UEC to find out where we’re at later in the day. We’ll need folks with shovels, power drills, wheelbarrows, and pickup trucks. And we will have volunteers working in all parts of the Milwaukee area. Whitefish Bay and Oak Creek are the polar extremities; most of the work will be going on in the central city. I’ll have the master map up in a day or two. It’s quite a sight.

Hope to see you there!

Oh, and I said there’d be a quiz…

Gene’s house is two miles from Jim’s house. Jim’s house is five miles from Tonya’s house. Tonya’s house is ten miles from Gene’s house. Starting at Betty’s house, which is eight miles from Gene’s house and four miles from Jim’s, what’s the best way to go according to Dijkstra’s algorithm?

I think that’s solvable.

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Author: Jason Haas

Jason is an elected member of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, occasionally moonlights as an amateur gardener, and is a proud father of two, or three, depending on how you do the math.

4 thoughts on “Getting ready for the Victory Garden Blitz of 2010”

  1. I think coordinating this whole thing is quite remarkable. Who drops off the material to fill the beds and is the material all from one source?

    You should video tape this event. I think it would be fascinating to see it in action.

    1. Thank you! The beds are getting half-and half leaf mulch and top soil. The mulch comes from a municipal leaf pile site, and the dirt was/is from a local organic operation. Now, on “Blitz Day,” the filler will be at two locations, one on the north side of Milwaukee, the other on the south side. There, we’ll have skidsters (skid-steers) loading the matter into trucks, which in turn go out to each site, hypothetically after the “build teams” have gone through and built the beds. We have over 60 sites and 100 gardens on our list to build now!

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