Household potato gardening once again in 2010

This gorgeous opening day for baseball season gave me a great opportunity to listen to the game (Braun just got a run!) and get our improvised potato gardens built and loaded with potato sprouts.

You can do it too—good instructions are right here. All you’ll need is potatoes that have sprouted. They’re the ones that grocery stores throw away, unless they have arranged for a compost pickup, a la Outpost and Pick n’ Save in Milwaukee.

I now have three tires and one bucket, bearing a total of eight potato “sprouts.” I’ve taken a bunch of potatoes that have sprouted, and cut off the bits with eyes. The pieces are about half the size of a small cell phone, and placed about a foot apart from one another in the dirt. That in turn is either inside of a tire, or a bucket.

To make it look better, I’m going to recruit some neighborhood kids to paint some boards and build a small structure around the tires and bucket. Hopefully I’ll come across another three tires, which would make for a symmetrical display. (I’ve used tires found in lots or on the street. Rest assured they’ve all been thoroughly rinsed out.)

Last year, I grew about ten taters of different sizes from two whole ‘tatoes that I planted whole. That’s described in this September 2009 post. We’ll see how the sliced potatoes do this year.

I’ve got dirt on my hands and a smile on my face. Pictures to follow!


City of Milwaukee plans to acquire 84 acres of former Tower Automotive facility

This is a very good sign.

The Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee (RACM) plans to acquire 84 acres of the former Tower Automotive facility near North 31st Street and West Capitol Drive in December 2009. In the coming months RACM will be preparing a number of Request for Proposals (RFPs) and bids for various services and commodities. These services and commodities will assist RACM with the property transition, site management, and various other redevelopment activities.

In general, the services will include: site security, plumbing, electrical, landscaping services, asbestos assessment, asbestos abatement, demolition, site maintenance, rehab/construction, environmental services, and others.

Curious parties can look at these sites for more info:

Abandoned Milwaukee factory becomes a fish farm

Sweet Water Organics is the name that is emblazoned upon a marvelous story of urban reclamation. Once an abandoned factory and an industrial slum, the site has been transformed into a thriving an urban farm, where they grow fish and vegetables in the same structure. WUWM did a story on the farm back in July, and now the Bay View Compass has checked in with a feature story on the plant.

It is hard to articulate that extent to which the site has been so completely transformed. Instead, I’ll use pictures. Here is the building prior to the renovations performed by the new owners:



A depressing place. Cold and lifeless.

But here it is after work had begun:



You can tell the difference that new windows made even by just looking at the fourth picture. Light pours into the building now. It’s a welcoming place, about to become something wonderful.

And here it is today. Photos below are © Bay View Compass:

It’s alive! And that’s wonderful. I have had some sprouts from their facility, so I know the system works for that. Hopefully the fish will come through in good form, and perhaps a winter farmers market will spring up there late this fall. I look forward to it all!

And in the mean time, I’ll be enjoying things that have come from our gardens at home, such as the broccoli shown below… (it’s the one on the left.)


Milwaukee suburb struggles with people doing what they want in their yard

The village of Shorewood is the northeastern portion of iron ring of suburbs that box in the city of Milwaukee. It prides itself on having a respectable standard of living, and is sometimes referred to as a bohemian suburb, if such a thing could exist. Never mind that Shorewood is poised above the  bohemian (“troubled”) Milwaukee neighborhood of Riverwest; while folks in Riverwest pride themselves on generally being able to do what they wish with their yards, folks in Shorewood apparently do not have that luxury.

As part of the recent Victory Garden Initiative “blitz,” planting beds sprung up all around Milwaukee and the greater metro area. Shorewood was no exception, with its organizer Gretchen Mead in residence there. But it turns out that the Shorewood village officials are not so keen on having people used their yards as they wish.

According to, the village has issued fines to some residents for either planting vegetables in their front yards, and in some cases, on the parkway, the area between the sidewalk and the road. While the recent burst of urban gardening brought this attention on the newest offenders of the various rules pertaining to yard-farming, it’s not a new phenomenon. People have been using their lawns as the good growing space that it is for years. What’s more is the village committee that is supposed to meet and discuss such matters “never met.”

The horse may indeed be out of the barn.

August 11, 2009 Update: NPR ran a story done by Susan Bence of WUWM on this matter. Listen to it here.

A little pocket of Bay View has been transformed

As a proud resident of the south side Milwaukee neighborhood of Bay View, I’m happy to see little pockets of our neighborhood spring to life. As much as I might like to keep our little secret contained, it’s vital to the success of the community that we make it known that Bay View kicks butt.

And it turns out that one little part of Bay View that I’m not sure I paid attention to has just been revitalized and reborn.

Tonic Tavern has come into being at 2335 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., in a building which used to be a  horse stable, according to (I noticed while walking through a back alley in the older part of Bay View the other day that you can easily find former stables. Here’s one I wouldn’t have guessed.)

While I’m not much for the bar scene (aside from hosting Drinking Liberally), this place deserves checking out. Nice thing is that with it being perhaps two miles from our house, it will make for a very nice evening walk this summer.

Also, here are before and after pictures. The first is from Google Maps. The building in question is in the center of the frame.

Picture 10

Doesn’t look like much, huh? Well, here’s the “after” picture via OMC:

I look forward to enjoying a bright new part of our community. I invite you to try it some time as well.

Urban re-usual at work

Through a long story involving a foreclosed home, a few barrows worth of compost, and a tangential reference to the French Revolution, our yard-farm took on a new layer of functionality through the addition of a compost bin.

And the Brewers beat the Reds 3-2, which made me happy.